A BLUE HEAVEN

While on the bus on my way to Chefchaouen “The Blue Pearl”, I fell asleep and woke up many times and I was surprised the trip was taking so long. “I must have miscalculated” – I thought. I arrived very late to the bus station in Chefchaouen and as I was getting out of the bus, a lot of people started to approach me asking me questions that I could not understand. One of the people got my attention and as he was talking to me, he reached with his hands towards my bag and started walking, asking me to follow. He carried my bag for me and took me to his taxi. I was tired and overwhelmed so I let him take me to the Medina of the city. Once there, I got my bag and started walking. The taxi driver, who was a young boy, started following me and it gave me a feeling of insecurity. I asked him what he wanted and he asked me where I was going to. I told him I was ok and continued walking, but he continued following me and after a lot of back and forth questioning, I told him I was going to “Riad Baraka”. I was annoyed and thankful at the same time and after he took me next to the door, I gave him some money and he looked at me smiling and left. The streets of the Medina at night looked like a dream. The walls were all white or sky blue and were decorated with different shades of what I call a darker beautiful “heavenly blue”. Some street walls were completely blue, and white around the arches of the doors. It was a beautiful mix of heavenly colors that kept me dreaming for the moments  I was waiting at the door of the Riad.

I finally got inside the hostel and the receptionist opened a notebook where he had handwritten a lot of names in a disorganized manner. He tried to find my name and then took my passport. I waited by the front desk while admiring the beautiful decoration of the hostel inside. The walls were colored bright yellow and in the center of the main wall, there was a map of the entire Medina of Chefchaouen. There were many board games, and the coffee table had books and there were blankets on the couches. The place looked like a cozy home. The receptionist, who was a boy, walked me to the floor in between the first and second. Right where the stairs made a turn to continue, there was a small door. He opened it and told me “This is your room”. I walked in, with my luggage on my shoulders and barely fit through that narrow door. The room was so beautiful. It was different shades of bright yellow and the doors from the inside and two wooden windows were painted with dark “Heavenly blue” the decoration matched perfectly with the entire vibe of this blue city I was in.

The next morning I went exploring and hiking up and down around the city. Chefchaouen is located in the middle of the Rif Mountains and its medina is surrounded by walls and the walls have 4  gates that are entrances to the city.  One of them, the north gate called “Bab El-Mahouk Gate”, was the gate I ran into after climbing up all the stairs I could possibly find. Once outside the city, there was no more construction and I found myself standing on top of one of the smaller Rif Mountains.  There was sheep walking around outside of the city, and a few people admiring the view over the cliff. For my entire stay in Chefchaouen, I remained like an outsider. I didn’t really talk to anyone or made any new friends. I would occasionally exchange words with the server at the restaurant I ended up eating both days I stayed there. My afternoons were spent sitting at the Uta El-Hammam Plaza, quietly observing people sitting at the center talk or walk by. My mind was busy feeling and experiencing the effects of the mountain life and trying to imagine how deeply could have been the pain of the Jewish that fled Spain because of the Inquisition back in the 15th century that they painted all the walls of the city blue to feel closer to God, to be closer to God.

Right across the Restaurant, I sat for lunch, there was a Fortress called “The Qasaba”. It was a beautiful place to walk around and learn so much about the history of Chefchaouen. The second floor had a gorgeous balcony that overlooked the city and the Rif Mountains, as well as the beautiful Minaret of the Mosque. I spent most of my time admiring the beautiful sunset from every angle I could as the sun extinguished its last bits of light, the Maghrib call to prayer started being heard all over the city. It was time to go back to the Riad and with that, I walked the city for the last time, trying to hold close to my chest all the feelings and reflections I have had for the past days. It was hard to realize my peaceful days were over and I had to keep going again.

While I was checking out in the morning, I came across another traveler who was also leaving that same morning and we walked together outside of the city to get a taxi. We picked up 2 more people in the way and got to the bus station where we checked our bags and kept each other company while waiting for the bus. We were all heading to Casablanca for different reasons and mine was to spend one more day walking around the city to see the astonishing beauty of the Hassan II Mosque. There were many more adventures to come before finally saying goodbye to the beautiful country or Morocco that had so far completely stolen my heart. My heavenly days in Chefchaouen still bring a peaceful feeling in me and make me think that perhaps Blue is really the color of God. No other place has made me feel in heaven like that tiny city in the heart of Rif Mountains did and while giving my last glance at the city at 4am in the morning the day I left I told myself I would come back one day to walk over my steps. Until then Chefchaouen, “The Blue Pearl”.

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