Monday, June 29, 2009


"Ou est la... um..."

I wasn't sure what to ask for. I needed to find the part of town with the cheap hotels. Two taxi drivers, seated on a wall outside their cabs, waited for me to finish.

"...Hotel Madrid? Ou est Hotel Madrid?" I made a snap decision. I'd stay at a place I'd seen in my guidebook.

"Directo." They both motioned straight ahead.


I walked straight on, the heavy bag slowing my normal clip. A block later, I came to medina walls. I hesitated.

"Can I help you?" A young man walking by, who for whatever reason I trusted instantly and knew was not a tout, slowed down just enough to get me walking along next to him.

"Is this the way to Hotel Madrid?"

"Yes, come on. I will show you. I work at Hotel Marrakesh, right up the hill."

He walked me to the hotel, not even the one he worked at, and along the way managed to invite me to a concert.

"We have a big concert at three in the morning. We are like Spain in this way."

"I'm sorry. It's been a long day. I won't be awake at three."

He smiled and shrugged. My loss.

Hotel Madrid put me on a 4th floor walk-up. Just like home. I showered quickly in the pink bedroom, tried to figure out what the time difference was with Spain, and then headed out for food. The hotel clerk directed me up a hill, also marking up an internet cafe on the map he gave me.

Up the hill was not THE entrance to the medina, but it was one entrance to the medina. The right one for a tourist new in town. This entrance to the medina opened onto a cobblestone open space, lined with shops and restaurants. Chefchaouen (just called SHA-wen, really) is a gorgeous, atmospheric, whitewashed little town with pale blue accents. In the center was a kasbah-turned-museum, and the main square was fed by dozens of small pale blue alleys.


I collapsed into a chair at the first outdoor restaurant I saw, ordered a tagine, and watched tourists and locals wander the main square of the Chaouen medina.

More photos of Chefchaouen here.