Morocco has been on my list of places to go for ages, and I’m glad to get here finally! Our first stop (of 3 cities) is Chefchaouen, a small town that has become famous in no small part due to instagram. You can quickly see why! It is sooooo perfect for photos, being full of white and blue buildings, often with bright flowers.
We took the ferry from the unfashionable Spanish port of Algeciras to the less common (for tourists) arrival port of Tangier Med, which is far outside the city of Tangier. There were a number of logistical reasons for this and it turned out fine. We were one of about 10 foot passengers (it is a truck/car ferry) in a ship built for 1,000 passengers! There probably about 150 total passengers onboard, but the rest were with vehicles. The ports are both clearly meant for many more foot passengers (and passengers generally), so our Friday morning trip mustn’t have been a peak time.
You go through Spanish immigration in the port, but Moroccan immigration on board. There was only one officer dealing with all the passengers and it was a terribly slow moving line. Strangely when we got to the front it didn’t take much time at all! How odd given many people seemed to be Moroccan.
The boat left late and arrived even later, which wasn’t entirely a surprise based on what we read but were a little nervous about how long our arranged driver would wait. Luckily the Riad (Hotel) was quick responding to messages and relayed info to the taxi. Steve enjoyed seeing the huge working port and array of ships.
After a meandering ride and walk through customs and a huge terminal, we found our driver. We were psyching ourselves up to have to speak French in Morocco but our driver only knew Spanish (and Arabic, of course).
The drive to Chefchaouen went as planned and lasted about 2.5 hours. Like many countries there are many rotaries, but thankfully no speed bumps! (South America is crazy for them). It is a country that loves its flag. Many (most?) rotaries have several flags flying in the middle. Also widely seen in towns.
Once Chefchaouan was in sight up on a hill in the distance one might be confused as it really doesn’t look that blue, given its fame as the blue city! I was a touch worried it might be even more hype than substance than I’d assumed. However I’m happy to say I think the hype is mainly justified. Nearly all the buildings in the old town are painted one or more shades of blue. It is a beautiful, calming effect. People can’t seem to agree why it’s done this way, but I can’t complain! We saw several people applying fresh coats of paint to walls. Clearly the locals take pride in it, and surely appreciate the income from tourists.
Our lodging was completely charming and in the pedestrian-only area of the Médina. The driver had to leave his car and help us find our way on foot. (Turns our this is just part of the job! It has happened to us subsequently too). My first view of the lane the hotel was on was a “wow” moment for sure! The inside continued to charm, especially when we saw the garden/breakfast area at night.
Being my first time in a predominantly Muslim country I knew of the daily calls to prayer. What I hadn’t know is that the first is 15 minutes long and goes from about 5am. Our hotel happened to be right next to the loudspeakers which was a bit unfortunate as it wasn’t just some interesting background noise. We all fell back asleep and we chalked it up to a new experience!
Over our day+ in town we walked all around the older part of town and took lots of photos! Steve also ventured with Jack to the bus station to acquire our onward tickets (successfully!). While there isn’t much to do in town, I thought it was completely lovely. It also turned out to be a very nice introduction to the maze-like streets of the Medinas in Morocco.
A highlight was walking up the hill on the side of town to get a panoramic view and see the sunset. There was some grumbling about the climb from our youngest, but it was worth it for sure!