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Sahara

Day 4: Tangier to Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen, Morocco 
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Lounging around in the funduq. Out-of-town traders mull over marketing strategy.
Michael Palin - SaharaHe doesn't know why.

Skirting the city of Tétouan, we follow the road up a broad rising valley. The green and wooded landscape with flocks of sheep and cattle could be Wales or Scotland save for the red-capped French kilometre posts by the side of the road and the occasional vivid glimpse of Berber shepherdesses in scarlet hats, white tops, boots and bright red knickerbocker leggings.

Late in the day we come to a town spread dramatically across the steep sides of a jagged limestone ridge. It's called Chefchaouen. As in Tangier, there is an old and new town. The French never attempted to fuse the two together, so the old town, the medina, remains pretty much as it must have been when it was founded at the end of the fifteenth century as a mountain retreat for those Moors and Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic Monarchs.

It is said that up until 1920 only three Christians had ever found their way into Chefchaouen, and until 1937 slaves were openly traded in its market. Now it's on the tourist trail as a picturesque mountain town and the hippie trail as a fine place to enjoy the much sought-after local marijuana, known as kif. Or as the rock and roll bands used to call it, Moroccan Red.

Around the long rectangular central space, the Plaza Uta El Hammam, are grouped an elegantly harmonious cluster of old buildings: the mosque with its delicately beautiful six-sided minaret of brick and plaster, the low white walls and fine doorway of the medersa, the Koranic school, and the crumbly, toffee-coloured walls of the casbah, the old castle, from whose gardens rise palms and cypress trees.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 4
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Chefchaouen
  • Book page no: 25

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