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Sahara

Day 4: Tangier to Chefchaouen

Michael Palin - SaharaDespite protestations that my hamstring is getting better, Roger is keen for me to attend the public baths tomorrow and have it massaged. I have to buy something to wear. My guidebook advises shorts for men, knickers for women. Walk into the souk, down whitewashed alleyways, past buildings painted an almost fluorescent, swimming-pool blue, an effect created by mixing lime and water with the paint. Blue, in many striking variations, is the predominant colour of old Chefchaouen. Apparently it's good for keeping evil spirits at bay.

Find a shop with a comprehensive display of shorts. The shopkeeper is obliging, and I pass a complimentary remark on the popularity of the place.

'Many people here. Many people in your town.'

He smiles thinly.

'Too many,' he says.

Before turning in, I walk into the Plaza. By night, the great space is very different; more mysterious, but more personal. Irregular stabs of light pierce half-closed doors and shuttered windows. There is subdued chatter, some music, faces at upper windows, figures silhouetted on back-lit balconies. If this had been a town in Britain the noise would surely have been growing by now; there would be laughter, fights, shouting and raucousness. Then a familiar smell drifts across from the half-lit balconies, spicing the cold night air with a sweet aroma and bringing on a flush of nostalgia.

Now I understand why it's so quiet. Everyone's stoned.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 4
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Chefchaouen
  • Book page no: 26

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