Friday, October 05, 2007

Ceuta, Chefchaouen, Ramadan

Ceuta was interesting. One of two spanish enclaves on the Mediterranean coast and a big duty-free and smuggling type of area from what I gather. Spanish architecture but definitely strongly influenced by the Moroccans. The population is heavily mixed with Berbers and they were definitely respecting Ramadan there as well. We were a little surprised to see almost all of the shops closed and the streets empty. Dad had wanted to go up there to look across the straight and see the rock of Gibralter, only 13km away. No such luck as it was quite cloudy and at times raining. There isn't much to see otherwise, the water is cold at this time of year and the beaches were empty. There is a small fort as well and it is hard to imagine that at the end of the 1600s the town withstood a 33 year seige by the Moroccans.
From there we went to stay a few days in Chefchaouen. It's very popular on the tourist circuit and it is quite strange to say that it feels like there are more tourists in Morocco than in Egypt. It can't possibly be true and yet there are definitely more backpackers over here so we meet a lot more people. Chefchaouen is a small town in the Rif mountains with apparently the least hassle in Morocco. We haven't found it that bad overall and if you don't count the hash dealers it is hassleless. The Rif mountains are a huge hash growing area and it is widely believed to the be inspiration for the term "reefer". There is tons of hiking in the area but we stuck to the surrounding area and enjoyed the quiet and fresh air which are still novelties to us. Chefchaouen also has a great Medina to wander through. Not so big that you will get lost and not overly crowded but very interesting. The whole town is quite clean and most has been repainted white and blue. But not just white and blue, all shades of blue in varying grades and often with very smooth steps and walls such that it looks like the whole thing has been tinted blue for a fake snow and cold effect like Disney would do. From a distance it looks great. The narrow streets and all the hills make it feel like you are going to slip or that it would be best experienced with a toboggan. Of course it was nice and sunny the whole time :) 3 nights there though and it was time to move on....
Finally tried couscous, it's a huge local dish speciality. Ramadan has prevented us from eating much more than bread and the local Moroccan soup Harira. The Moroccans seem to be pretty good about not getting offended or scowling at us when we ask for food from the local shops but the reality is that during the day most of the shops everywhere are closed and then at sunset ~6pm, everyone disappears completely and all the shops close so that people can go home and eat. You could find more people out at 4am than at 6pm. It is crazy. Then at about 8pm eveything opens up again and it is busier on the streets than it has been all day. We've only experience Morocco under Ramadan conditions so I wonder what the country is really like. Maybe it is a lot more intense normally. We really haven't been out at night with the larger crowds....


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