It began with dad spending the night in his car, whilst I unsuspectingly spent it in a mansion of mosaics, me getting lost down all the dead ends in Fes – Morocco’s second largest city – the next day whilst trying to find him, and him subsequently getting arrested – for driving the wrong way down a one way street in a restricted area without a valid permit.
It wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I said ‘meet me at the police station’, but due to my being stuck in a sandstorm in the Sahara with no transport out I was 2 days late arriving in Fes, which had put a reasonably sized proverbial spanner in the works. After finally finding one another in this intricate maze of winding alleys and dead ends (designed centuries ago to trap the infidels who tried to take Fes on numerous occasions), following donkeys carrying unbearable sized crates of Coca Cola around, we finally settled in a small cafe in the very center of Fes to plan our adventure. But not before trying (and failing) to follow a map of Fes without a guide, to do a spot of sightseeing. I’d highly recommend a trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site – a fine combination of fortress, walled city and ultimate maze! It was actually the capital of ‘modern Morocco’ until 1925 before Rabat took over as the capital.
Soon we were back on the road again, and it was fast becoming apparent that any main roads listed on maps were in fact just widened dirt tracks. We took the ‘road’ up through mountains and pastureland passing shepherds and goad herders and unusual modes of public transport, up to Chefchaouen, a stunning village built at the foot of the Rif mountains in Northern Morocco with houses all lime-washed white and the lower halves painted blue or purple to ward off ‘evil spirits and insects’. Legend has it the colour blue confuses the spirits and so they stay away, unfortunately I never managed to find out the link with insects tho.
There is a wonderful relaxed atmosphere in Chefchaouen, quite possibly due to the huge quantities of kif (highly potent marijuana) that is produced and smoked here. It was all too easy to relax in the town center watching men playing accordions and drain pipes, accompanied by old priests playing badly tuned violins to no particular tune. Along the surrounding streets boy shepherds heard their goats and donkeys and children push each other in wheelbarrows up cobbled alley ways. It was here that we arrived at the Casa Hassan, an idyllic hotel with delightful views over Chefchaouen.