Peacefulness in Chefchaouen and the Rif Mountains

The 5 hour bus ride from Fes to Chefchaouen allowed me to peacefully rest while finding comfort in the sound of music from my iPod. Songs that reminds me of home, of my friends, of a fantastic summer we just spent. Don’t worry, I am not homesick yet, but it is nice to sometimes feel close to home.

10 years ago, I moved solo to the mountains of Whistler. My comfort, my family, the place I always look forward to return after trotting the globe. Home. I couldn’t be there to celebrate this decade however, I managed to travel to the mountains, here in Africa.

Chefchaouen

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Chefchaouen is a peaceful town centrally located in the Rif mountains in northern Morocco. The blue painted walls of the medina offers calmness to all who stroll its alleys. We enjoyed getting lost in the non-hassle pathways, slowly walking through serene alleys. Stalls of colourful clothing, wool products and powdered paintings are found every corners with passive merchants.

Here, goats are a popular purchase for the Eid, considering they live right here in the mountains and are a leaner meat than the sheep.

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I couldn’t stop but admiring the soft contrast of women wearing colourful djellaba against the blue of the walls. Cats make up for great pictures too.

The main square houses a few restaurants, offering dirt cheap dinner option. Bright and colourful rugs for purchase hung on the central bench under the afternoon sun.

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Chefchaouen is known for its wool, its pure mountain water and the popular kif (cannabis), the town’s own perfume that is enjoyed by everyone. Men in back alleys are also spotted drinking mint tea, smoking kif and watching futbol. A persistent smell of goat is also added to the air.

The Rif Mountains

About 350,000 people reside in the province of Chefchaouen. Only 36,000 currently live in the town, while the rest is spread in the mountains. The mountains are divided by 33 rural communities, each housing up to 60 villages inhabiting up to 1,000 people.

Our host at the riad recommended us his childhood friend, Lofti, to guide us through the back mountains. We left in the afternoon for what was expected to be a 2 hour hike.

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As we hiked up, we sought three women cutting the oak for the goats. On the road, a minivan filled, in and out, of farmers and their kids came back from the Monday market in town. We passed beds of purple-pink flowers on rocky surfaces, donkeys feeding on bark, rosters hanging out. An old man on a slim donkey returned from the market. A young man attempted to show off on his motorcycle. The funny part was to watch him run after his hat, once it blew in the air.

We arrived at an open space, at the foothills of a high mountain. Boulders that once rolled down are scattered on the ground.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and the trek was very informative. When we stopped for a break, he introduced us to cactus fruit. I didn’t have the choice then to try and chew the excessive number of seeds that contained this little fruit.

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We arrived at the village of Kalaa.

We sat under a fig tree to enjoy a rewarding cup of mint tea. The scent of kif perfumed the fresh mountain air. Local men played board games on balconies smoking and drinking afternoon tea. Kids returning from school enjoyed their liberty in the surroundings.

On our way back, we walked through small villages. Cats, sheep, donkeys, horses, all were there to greet us with a stare. Kif dried on a roof.

The sun setting behind the mountains on the way back left a soft pink light over the blue city. The view was stunning, the breeze refreshing and the smell of pine trees comforting.

The moon replaced the sun in the sky, lighting us the way the back to the medina. This 2 hour hike ended being a wonderful 6 hour trek. We are exhausted.

Good night Chefchaouen.

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IMG_9196*I highly recommend to hire Lofti. If it is for a tour of the medina, a couple hour hike, or a few day trek in the Rif mountains, I assure you Lofti will make it worth it. He works for himself and charges extremely cheap rate (I ended up giving him twice his offer), so make sure you treat him right. He speaks both French and English. To contact him: guidrural_lofti@yahoo.fr

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