The next morning, we allowed ourselves to be caught and cleaned like good little fish by a waiter trolling for customers from the row of restaurants that line the square. This metaphor was emphasized by the fact that we should have gone to one of the larger restaurants on either side, which were full of Moroccans. There was just one other expat couple in ours, and the omelette Donn ordered was distinctly fishy.
The coffee was adequate however, and we filled up on toast and jam and freshly-squeezed orange juice, which is a basic not a luxury here. We were in a hurry, because we had a long drive ahead of us, and friends who would be waiting for us to pick up our children.
Chefchaouen is east and north of Rabat. Instead of heading back the way we’d come, we opted to follow another one of those tiny yellow squiggles on the map northwards as far as the Mediterranean coast, at which point we could turn left (west) and head over to Tangiers, then catch the autoroute down the Atlantic coast towards home.
We ended up on the worst road yet, but it was worth it. The edges were mice-nibbled and the tarmac was cracked and pitted, and best of all, it was only one lane wide and we were up in the mountains at this point. I will say that the oncoming trucks with their overbearing drivers weren’t what scared me—it was my photographer husband’s habit of driving directly without pause onto these very narrow turnouts, perched precariously high and with no guard rail, grinding the wheels down into the gravel and then leaving the car running while he got out to inspect the view. In retrospect, his photos make it all worthwhile, especially given that we didn’t plunge to our deaths.
I really just want to show you pictures, but first I am going to comment on a frustrating reality—no one would allow us to photograph them. Donn’s ethics forbid him from using a long lens and taking blurry photographs unaware, so we always ask nicely, and no one would agree. This was incredibly frustrating because the people were so beautiful; women with faces like old wrinkly apples and little pink cheeks, men in hooded dejellabas like characters in a medieval drama. We are used to people not wanting to be photographed. It was the same in Mauritania. But there, usually if you talked to someone for a while, they’d agree. In Chefchaouen, we never got anyone to agree. One young man even shouted at us for photographing him, although we hadn’t—we were photographing a building, using telephoto lenses, and he wasn’t in our pictures at all.
I’ve been looking at calendars and postcards with people in them, and they are all blurry. It’s evident that not everyone shares Donn’s ethics. I must admit that I don’t even share them myself! Here is Donn, waiting till this woman passed so he could ask her if he could photograph her. She said no, of course, and that even after we chatted with her for about 10 minutes.
And these two boys came running up to watch Donn photograph the valley near their homes. They hung out and chatted rapidly, but I knew they’d never let me take their picture.
I really cannot recommend this drive highly enough. First you wind through the mountains…
…then you come down through the hills and out into a truly horrific market, which is sort of like driving down a crowded aisle at Safeway, only with live sheep and oncoming traffic, then you make it through that, thankfully, and come out here:
which pretty much makes everything in your life meaningless unless you can move here and go for long walks on the beach every morning, or something like that.
We stopped for coffee at a fascinatingly-named cafe:
Cafe Carrion. Roadkill Restaurant. We stuck to the coffee, which was excellent. Muy bueno, as they say in this part of the world. (Spanish was more common than French)
We meant to stop right on the Med for pizza, but we somehow just kept going…
stopping at hairpin bends to photograph and getting passed by trucks full of men, or sometimes trucks full of sheep, who drove agonizingly slowly up the hills and then whizzed rapidly down, practically going up on two wheels on the bends,
and we didn’t actually stop for lunch till 5 p.m., by which point we’d left the coast and were cutting back across the mountains to the autoroute.
Donn had grilled meat again and I had a really good lamb tagine with raisins and onions and potatoes, followed with Moroccan tea. We made it home safely, long after dark, picked up our filthy and exhausted children (Me: Abel, when did you last shower? Abel: I have NO idea! Me: I have an idea) and I decided to write approximately 8,000 blog posts about it all!
Don’t think we’re done yet. Coming tomorrow: sunset pics from Dar Mounir!