Chefchaouen is hands-down the best part of our trip to Morocco. Okay, second best because CAMELS are obviously #1.
We left the hotel early in the morning and took a scenic drive about 1 hour south to this city. I wouldn’t call it an actual city – it’s more like 5 different small towns shoved together. There aren’t any tall buildings or businesses like Tetuan and Tangier. It’s a simple, old way of life with very few modern conveniences. It’s also situated in the mountains, and it’s very, very pretty.
We had a new tour guide today – wearing the typical muslim jalibya (which I liken to a muslim snuggie. am I right?). He took us on a tour of the Medina of this town – which was fairly clean and quiet and very pretty.
The whitewashed walls of this medina (and the entire city) are painted half blue and half white – and they have to be repainted 5 times a year. (maybe they should find better paint since what they use is basically chalk…) And all the doors are painted blue since a Blue Door is the symbol of Chefchaouen. It’s such a far cry from Tetuan or Tangier which are much, much larger metropolises. And also, both those cities have SO many destroyed buildings and run down areas. However, I think it is a good sign that many of them are being repaired and there is tons of construction.
Chefchaouen is mainly a tourist town, and there are many nice hotels in the area – we ate at one and it was really pretty (and delish). So if you ever go to Morocco – definitely make a trip here. It also seems a lot safer since there were a lot of children playing in the streets and running around. I didn’t feel for a minute that I could be kidnapped or hurt. Maybe pickpocketed, but that’s commonplace in Malaga too.
After our tour, we had free time in the main market area. I don’t think I’ve mentioned how much I hate bartering with these people. Most of them are the Berber people, and they areso incredibly persistent. Example. In Tetuan we went to a rug seller and he showed us all the different rugs that the Moroccan women make by hand – all natural dyes and fibers. Well, I was eying one rug, and one of the “salesmen” cornered me and showed me a million different things and kept asking me, “name your price.” and “you have good taste… what you like?” Oh my gosh. I had no intention of buying a rug – I didn’t have 300 euros on me! I kept saying, “I can’t offer a fair price, I don’t want one.” But he would NOT GIVE UP. “280 euros for you, I give you a discount since you are a student… what do you offer me?” This went on for 20 MINUTES, until I finally said, “listen, I can’t afford more than 50 euros, so I really am not interested.” At this point he showed me to the basement where “this is more in your price range.” Although I still wasn’t interested in buying anything because I was so incredibly annoyed at this point.
Imagine for a second the stereotypical arab older man. He’s missing half his teeth and wearing his brown robes, and as you venture into his shop, he follows you around his lair and tries to seduce you with his low prices and cheap merchandise. I endured this nonsense for 2 days and I am SO GLAD to be back in Spain. This picture is from google, but it’s prettttyyy much what I encountered.
Speaking of stereotypes… let me tell you, these people stereotyped us like you would not believe. Personally I believe in not stereotyping people because it always backfires on you. My favorites from this weekend were the vendors yelling “Michael Jackson” at my friend Taylor, who is african-american. Her response, “Oh yeah, he’s my grandfather – I’ll tell him you said hi.” The second best was the vendors that yelled, “Hello Jackie Chan!” At the one Korean kid that was with us – oh, and everyone kept calling him “chino” (chinese) until finally he was like, “No soy chino… soy koreano.” I felt so bad for him. I mean, I was called “japonesa” – which I don’t understand AT ALL. But regardless.
So you can see, I wasn’t excited about buying things in Chefchaouen. But I knew that I wanted to find my sister those moroccan pants – (aka genie pants). And this was the worst part. I found some that I REALLY liked, but he wanted 120 dirhams for them. ($15 ish) Our tour guide had told us that you NEVER take the first price they offer, and you ALWAYS have to barter. So I knew they were super overpriced so I offered a much lower price, to which he scoffed and then told me for two pairs he would do 90 dirhams each. I really didn’t think it was a bad deal, but I still tried to go lower. Buuuuuttt he wouldn’t budge. So trying to save face, I said OK and I walked away.
Turns out I couldn’t find anything else that was similar, so I had to go back later – he knew he had the upper hand since I had come back, but I knew that they prefer euros over dirhams, so he took 17 euros for the two. (yay!)
My friends had an easier time than me and everyone ended up being happy in the end.
On a more serious note. I’m really happy that I’ve now been to Africa, and I’m glad I have the passport stamp to prove it. It was a really good life experience, and I’m so much more culturally aware of things. I never felt in danger on this trip, because I was with a group that always had arab men with us. However, just driving around in Tetuan and seeing (almost) only men on the streets, and all women with (at least) headscarves… It was very eye-opening. The typical younger guy would be dressed in his nice jeans, black leather jacket, nice shoes and looked very well-groomed. There was about 20 guys staying the same hotel as us – possibly part of a soccer team – and while many of them were very attractive, some of the other girls with us said they said some derogatory things to them. Which, to me, is so unfathomable being from America.
The gender gap was especially evident in Chefchaouen, where the women were employed doing their laundry in the creek with washboards (I will NEVER complain about laundry again), and the men sat around smoking. This didn’t bother me nearly as much as seeing this older woman (at least in her 70s), carrying this load up a hill. And all the young guys zooming past her in their cars, nearly killing her.
I mean, I come from a place where men go out of their way to help me with whatever. Even if I don’t need help – yes, I can open a door for myself, but it’s nice that they do anyway. I wanted to help this woman, but I know it would be so culturally unacceptable for me to do so.
I think the hardest part of the trip was coming to grips with the reality that it’s just the way life is there. Most of these women take pride in what they do, and don’t riot in the streets over the inequality. And, they aren’t all beaten into submission or mistreated by their husbands. I’m sure most of them are happy and completely fine with it. I suppose just coming from a life that is very different makes me all the more thankful for my country, faith, parents, and everything.
So if you get a chance to go to a Muslim country – it’s worth it.