I was planning on staying in Fes for most of the week and taking day trips to the surrounding area. I suggested visiting Bhalil and Volubilis to Rob, Lauren, and Lizzie and they seemed interested. After some thought, they decided to head to Chefchaouen, a town in the Rif mountains, and invited me. While I was looking forward to seeing the Roman ruins in Voulubilis, I decided that Chefchaouen did sound very nice and that I’d prefer the company of my new fronds than trekking it solo. So we packed up our things and headed for the CTM bus station.
When we arrived we were told that all the buses were sold out for the day and that we should try the station located in front of Bab Boujeloud, the entrance to the old medina.
There is one thing to understand. CTM buses are generally what tourists take, and are priced higher than the buses for the locals that we were about to use. On a positive note, they were only a couple of dollars.
When we arrived at the station we were told that there wasn’t a direct bus and we had to go to Ouezzane and “see” if there was another bus to Chefchaouen there. Without much choice, we paid for our tickets and spent an hour or so grabbing lunch at one of the vendors at the station. Supposedly I had a chicken sandwich. To be honest, I’m not sure what kind of meat that was in the bread but it was definitely tasty. The cook was very friendly ad patient with my mediocre French but wanted to practice his English by complementing the beauty of our female companions.
Shortly after finishing our meal we were approached by a man who said he was the driver and told us our bus was boarding soon. He took us to the bus, loaded our bags, and then demanded 10dh for each bag. We paid and took our seats. After sitting there for about 30 minutes and never seeing him again, we realized he was just hustling us for some change. The small amount was so trivial that we just laughed that somebody would go through so much trouble for pocket change.
The bus wasn’t the most comfortable and broke down twice. I’m not sure what was wrong but the driver managed to fix it after a few minutes.
A 20-something Moroccan man struck up conversation with us after hearing that we were going to Chefchaouen. He said he lived there and we would need to take a taxi because there was no bus going there that afternoon. We were a little hesitant to trust him but we went ahead and accepted his help in finding a taxi. He negotiated a very good deal for the taxi and asked if he could ride with us. We were happy to share it with him and we covered the cost. For over an hours drive up a small mountain, I think we only paid about $10-15 between the four of us. The only bad part was that the four of us had to squeeze in the back seat
Eventually we arrived in Chefchaouen and mentioned that we were going to find a room at Pension Znika. Our new Moroccan friend Youssef, told us that he lived next to Pension Znika. We didn’t quite believe him, as we have already had our fair share of people doing anything they can for a tip, but we were too tired to try and navigate Chefchaouen with our guide book’s map and we let him take us there.
After walking up several hilly streets we finally arrived at Pension Znika. Youssef came in with us and spoke to the owner. After a short conversation, he told us the price for two rooms which was considerably cheaper than the guide book listed. We each paid about $7 per night. I thanked Youssef and went to give him a tip for his help. He immediately told me that he would not accept and that he was just being a friend by welcoming us to his town.
After that, he asked if we would like to go get some tea with him after we got settled and cleaned up. We agreed and went up to our rooms. Pension Znika is in a very nice small pension with a handful of colorfully decorated rooms. The best part is the roof terrace and its beautiful view of Chefchaouen.
We met back up with Youssef and went out for some tea. We spent a good hour or so asking him many questions about Morocco and Chefchaouen. When we were finished, Youssef insisted on paying for our drinks. I believed he was being genuine but there was no way we would let him do that. As we were finishing, he asked if we would be interested in going to his place that night to enjoy a tagine for dinner. We couldn’t believe that this guy who we just met could be any more friendly and welcoming.
We of course obliged and after a short walk around the main square, we headed over to his family’s place. We realized by his “family” he actually meant his good friends. Since they don’t have their own families there, they spend most nights together enjoying dinner and company. When we arrived, we were surprised to see an American couple who another one of the guys had met and invited over. There were at least 10 of us enjoying dinner. We had a giant tagine with beef and an amazing an interesting base of peas and other vegetables and tasty juices. I personally don’t eat beef so I enjoyed scooping up the peas with my bread and dining on that for the night. It was very interesting sharing one big plate of food with everybody using nothing but our hands.
Remember, when in Morocco it’s polite to use your right hand ONLY for eating. You can imagine what the left is commonly used for.
We must have spent several hours at dinner. Everybody was incredibly nice. Some of the guys spoke good English, some did not. There were three languages going around the room, Arabic, French, and English. In fact, the man responsible for the cooking started speaking some basic Japanese to me since I said I knew a few words.
Probably the best part was the corny jokes that one of the guys was telling. Meeting travelers is obviously a common thing for them and he likes to have each one tell him a joke or cheesy pick up line. My favorite was, “Do you know how much a polar bear weighs? Enough to break the ice. Hello, my name is Abdulsalam.”
We were cracking up to say the least!
When we returned to Pension Znika all four of us were in awe of how our day had transpired. Stressed beyond reason earlier, we ended up having an amazing night with some extremely friendly people. It turned out to be one of the most memorable nights of my life.
We were wide awake so we quietly went up on the rooftop terrace and gazed at the stars for about an hour. The sky was so unbelievably clear. Nothing like what I am used to at home. It was truly breathtaking.