On my last day in Tetouan I first had my ‘French’ breakfast and then spent much of the day walking around, absorbing the atmosphere. This town was the capital of the ‘Spanish Protectorate’ from 1912 until 1956 and so has a distinctly Spanish character. I was told that when the Spanish kicked out the Moors and the Jews in 1494, many came here, so there are also heavy Moorish influences.
I walked through the Medina again to the Bab el Okla (Gate) and visited the Artisanal School. This is a craft school where masters teach apprentices traditional crafts. They weren’t working that day because it was Sunday. There were many treasures on display, including a silver hand of Fatima.
Near this gate was the Riad Saada Palace Restaurant, which was quite hard to find, but I persevered! It was a gorgeous restaurant, which caters mainly to groups, I gather, and
there were none that day. I was the sole patron, sitting among all these riches of sumptuous ceilings, carvings, mosaics, chandeliers and rugs. The food was not great since they obviously were not prepared for any groups, but they made do with bean soup, a nice salad, bread and shish kabobs. For dessert there were scrumptious cookies with mint tea. What a setting for dining! On the way back through the Medina, I topped off my dinner with three huge dates stuffed with walnuts— yum!
Since the hotel clerk had suggested that I go early the next day to get a bus to Chefchaquen, my next destination, I got to the bus station at 8:30 AM. Too late—the 9:30 bus was full, and I had to wait until the 11:30 bus. While waiting, I did find an internet nearby.
The drive in the lovely sunshine through small mountains was beautiful. By 1:30 I was in Chefchaquen, a pretty mountain town. I bought my ongoing bus ticket to Al Hoceima for Thursday so things would go more smoothly, but it turned out that it left at 6:00 AM. So it goes. I got a petit taxi to the Medina, then walked to find the Yasmina hotel, which the LP had recommended. I went to eat, learning that only one hotel in the vicinity served wine, which I had with my dinner. It turned out that the red wine was all gone, so I had the white. Don’t ever do that in Morocco! It was the worst wine I’ve ever tasted—well maybe I remember some equally as bad in Fairbourne, Wales in ’85—so I became a
teetotaler while in Chefchaquen. I think I remember this from when I was in Morocco in ’86 or ’89—whenever it was.
The next day I explored the Medina after having breakfast at a wifi café! The wifi was pretty slow, but hey, pretty nice!
I’m not too concerned about eating too much in this town since virtually every step is steeply uphill and then steeply downhill. The Medina is charming, and it’s fun to just look and look. I came to a place where they were drying and combing sheepskins. Otherwise, the people-watching was fun, too. There was a pretty mosque, but unlike many other Muslim countries, in Morocco non-Muslims are not permitted to enter.
I’ve had two conversations about the ‘new’ king. Actually he has been king for 13 years. One person said he was very popular with the poor as he had set about building infrastructure and hence created many jobs. He also emphasized that there was now much more freedom of speech. The other person said that there was still much corruption and the poor people were not happy. Still, it sounds like/looks like they are making progress.
After more than a week in Morocco, I finally got my phone to work. I had bought a SIM card in the Tangier airport, but when I called hotel numbers listed in the LP, they wouldn’t work. I discovered that the area codes had changed since my old LP had been printed; adding a ‘5’ finally got results. Soooo, I successfully called a hotel in Al Hoceima for a reservation.
I visited the small Kasbah with its pretty garden. Later I ate my dinner on the sixth level of a restaurant overlooking the Plaza. Then I enjoyed photographing the colorful local scene. There were dyes for sale to be used for hennaing designs on hands and forearms. This used to be done only for weddings, but now I did see a couple of women on the street with the designs.
The next morning by the dawn’s early light, I was waiting for my bus to go to Al Hoceima. I had walked in the dark through the plaza to the Petit Taxi stand (thank goodness there was one waiting!) making good use of the little flashlight that I got from Quetzal for Christmas. I taxied to the bus depot. Boarding buses is always so disorganized in Morocco, but we were finally underway at 6:35 AM.
We drove through high mountains with beautiful scenery, but saw some farming
operations, too. There was snow on one of the mountain peaks. During one rest stop, many of the bus patrons washed and drank out of a pretty fountain. Finally after 6 1⁄2 hours, we descended to the Mediterranean and into Al Hoceima. The E’Toille du Rif
Hotel that I had reserved now turned out to be called the Villa Florido (!) and later when I taxied to the Club Nautique for linner, that turned out to now be called the Chafarima! What’s with all the name changes? After linner, I took a turn around the port—this is a fishing town. There were beautiful vistas ‘down below,’ looking up toward the town perched on the cliffs.
The next day I tried to buy my onward bus ticket. The two main companies’ buses both left in the evening, therefore arriving Fes about 2:00 AM! I did manage (with help from my hotel people) to get a ticket on another bus that leaves at the sensible time of 9:30 AM. I also got their help on an important issue—finding lamb tagine. Apparently it is considered ‘old-fashioned.’ The more modern restaurants have moved on to beef,
sandwiches and pizzas. The clerk did point out a ‘public’ restaurant (no name) about a block away that does serve lamb tagine, which I tried out later in the day.
I also located a liquor store (a rare commodity) and bought some wine and a cork puller, which the clerk ran across the street to buy for me. Luckily the ‘public’ restaurant was only a half-block from my hotel, so I had a nice glass of wine in my room, then followed up with lamb tagine at the public restaurant, which was quite disappointing—mostly fat.
I’m enjoying this hotel which is located smack dab in the middle of the Plaza. There’s lots of activity (and noise, which I don’t mind) day and evening. Last night they even turned on the pretty fountain.
I’ll be going to Fes (sometimes spelled Fez) tomorrow. This is the main city of Morocco with a 700-year-old Medina where I’ll be staying in a hostel.