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Heavenly Blue Chefchaouen

December 10, 2021

High up in the Rif Mountains, the 14th century city of Chefchaouen clings to the mountainside below the remnants of its ancient city walls. My charming hotel, Dar Echchaouen, perches higher still, and they placed me in a room at the very pinnacle of the property.

Famed for the endless shades of blue on doors and walls of the small but labyrinthine medina, the rest of the city is also dotted with the color that made it the darling of Instagram. Abdou and I strolled through the medina, and I was stupefied by the quantity of merchandise on offer — but not the variety. Most of the offerings were djellabas, which seemed pretty attractive on this chilly day. I had no idea I’d be aching for one later.

Women in the Rif Mountains wear these embellished straw hats and red-striped aprons. What attracts most visitors, I would guess, are the doors, in every shade of blue you can imagine. The steep stone streets forced me to keep my eyes on my feet!

Lunchtime found us climbing more steps to the enclosed terrace of a welcoming restaurant called Chourafa, whose energetic waiters were anxious to try out their English on us. A signature dish of the region is anchovy tagine, the little fish nestled in a savory tomato sauce imbued with spices and served with saffron rice on the side — so I had to try it, and it was scrumptious.

Two Doors

Just beside the medina is the entrance to a very small kasbah, its Portuguese tower overlooking what is probably a tidy garden in season. More steps to get to the top! You can practically reach out and touch the unusual octagonal Spanish mosque minaret.

I wasn’t prepared for how cold it was when I got back to my room before dinner. It was only after dinner that I realized two things: 1)a small window in the shower was wide open, and 2)there was a remote control high on the wall for a heater. Even though I torqued it up to 30 C (82 F), it never actually got warm in there, so I wore my down jacket until I worked up the courage to put on my PJs. At least my laptop was generating heat!

A word about mint. At home it is the bane of my herb garden, choking out everything else. In the early spring I yank as much of it out as I can, but I still have to repeat the process several times during the summer. But this trip has given me a new appreciation for the herb. I find myself craving mint tea several times a day, and it has shown up to great effect in many of the meals I’ve enjoyed. I started my dinner tonight with a stacked salad of tomatoes and goat cheese that had a mélange of basil and mint in the dressing and garnishing the top. And I can’t tell you how much I love the creamy goat’s cheese from the Rif Mountains.

Unfortunately, I’ve been trying to finish this post for several days, and some of my images just refused to load, so I’ll publish without them and share them with you when I get home.

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