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Trip Report Chefchaouen Report

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A little later, I will write a fuller report on all of the places that I visited in Morocco between September 20 and October 8, 2013, but here I are addressing specifically a question that I posted in this forum before I went to Morocco, namely whether Chefchaouen is a tourist trap or a worthwhile destination. In short, I believe that it is a worthwhile destination. Now, a little background and, then, thoughts on Chefchaouen.

I took a grand taxi from Tangier to Chefchaouen primarily because I feared difficulty in locating the riad that I had booked and I counted on the driver for help. It was a wise decision. That riad, Casa la Palma, which I had learned of through this forum, is owned and run by a Spanish couple, Ana and Carlos. They live about two-thirds up the mountainside that makes up the medina of Chefchaouen. To get there, taxi drivers take passengers to a gate (bab) at the top of the medina, someone from the riad meets them, and guides them down the steps to the riad. This all worked out fine, after some consultation between the taxi driver and Carlos on the cell phone, and Carlos met me. This is when trouble started. I was physically almost unable to manage steps that varied in every imaginable way---height, depth, angle, width, and so on, rarely with railings. Before I went to Chefchaouen, I knew that the area was hilly, but I did not know that the town is literally built on the side of a mountain and that there is no vehicular traffic within it. In Chefchaouen, all the restaurants, banks, and businesses are down at the bottom by the kasbah. To get there, one must walk down and, to return, one gets a taxi to go back up to the top gate.

Having booked a room at Casa la Palma was a great stroke of luck, for Ana and Carlos became my guardian angels. The first afternoon, Carlos accompanied me down all the steps to the plaza, holding me steady. The next day, either Ana or Carlos---and sometimes both---took me around Chefchaouen, again helping me with steps and showing me sights. They speak good English and told me a lot about the area, about their experiences living in Morocco, and made suggestions for my further travels. Carlos went and bought my bus ticket to Fez and, the next day, they accompanied me to the taxi stand in the plaza where they gave the driver instructions on taking me to the bus station. I do not know what I would have done without their help.

After this unbelievable generosity, I cannot but have good thoughts about Chefchaouen, but, even so, I did not find it more touristy than some other places and certainly less touristy than Marrakech. There were a lot of Moroccan tourists and that gives a different atmosphere from having westerners. There is not a whole lot to see, but the place is interesting and pleasant. I asked Ana and Carlos about drug use by visitors. They claim that most drug use is by older locals. So, I say, "Go to Chefchaouen. Stay at Casa la Palma." Not only will you have great hosts, but an attractive, comfortable accommodation.

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