We left Ceuta mid morning and had brisk 30-knot winds going around the Ceuta Lighthouse. Once on the east coast the waves smoothed out and it was like sailing on a lake down to Smir. The marina in Smir has a pleasant atmosphere in that it is quite large and very open with palm trees along the shoreline. It is a fairly quiet place with not many shops or restaurants but a good place to leave your boat for inland excursions. Some hours after we arrived, a Hallberg-Rassy 48 named “Ginger” arrived. We helped them moor. This was their first time in Morocco so we told them we were renting a car and driving to the Berber village of Chefchaoen in the Rif Mountains and they were welcome to come. Tatiana and Dimitry are from Moscow.
The next morning 5 of us (one was the car agent) crammed into this small compact car for a 15-minute ride to the agent’s office. Then the four of us proceeded into the countryside for the 2-hour drive. The car had no air-conditioning so 4 sweaty bodies fell out of the car on arrival in Chefchaoen.
We checked into the lovely Dar Echchaouen Hotel just next to the Medina (old town). This turned out to be a real oasis to return to after a long day of walking around in the heat. The swimming pool, which overlooked the countryside, was a refreshing treat! The Medina’s dominant color is an ice blue. When the Jewish refuges arrived in the l930 to this village, blue was a favorite color so they started painting many of the houses and walls along the narrow foot streets. A Moroccan young man who is selling rugs told us the town was painted blue to chase away the mosquitos as they do not like the color blue…… ok, moving on. The color certainly offers a visual cooling against the hot hot sun. Along with touring the maze of narrow streets, vendors, restaurants and historical places, there is also hiking or biking which is recommended for the early morning.
You are awoken at 0400 to the call for prayer. Friday is the Big day of the week for Muslims, so many of the shops are closed and the evening is a celebration for them. Therefore we saw many more local residents out walking. Roland and I commented that we feel much safer here walking the street in the evening than many Caribbean places.
Roland experienced the traditional Hamam with the locals before the Friday prayer. There was a sigh of relive when Roland dropped his shorts and the Hamam boss could see he had underwear. It is important to be clean before visiting the Mosque. Hamam is a body scrub in a steaming hot room, plus he also got a massage, which lasted all of about 5 minutes with a small local man, Amin walking on his back. After hearing this I passed. The Hamam ritual did not help, the Grand Mosque is closed for visitors that are not muslims.
Instead Roland insisted it was time for serious shopping as it was the Big Friday. Of course, we departed with a Berber carpet to a very special Friday price, and some Moroccan spices, oils and creams. After the dry hot temperatures in the mountains, it was nice to return to Bella Luna and the sea breeze.