Tangier & the Rif Mountains

We have been in Tangier for a week now and enjoyed taking in a bit more of the country on this second visit.  We spent a couple of days in the nearby Rif Mountains with the highlight being a night in the gorgeous town of Chefchaouen.  It is understandably a popular tourist destination but most of the visitors were Moroccans when we were there.  The town was founded in 1471 as a refuge for Muslims forced out of Spain by the Reconquista, so it has a strong Andalucian character and many of the inhabitants still speak some Spanish.  The narrow, hilly, winding streets and the buildings are nearly all painted blue, even some ruins had blue painted rubble!  The town is known for its crafts and there were stalls selling pottery, rugs, woollen blankets and Berber hats everywhere.  The Berber hats are a distinctive conical straw shape and decorated with jaunty coloured pompons.  As we saw lots of Berbers out in the fields and little towns we passed through, we were able to confirm that they actually do wear these in their everyday lives.  We stayed the night in a riad, a traditional style Moroccan hotel with a beautiful inner courtyard and a roof terrace where we had dinner overlooking the main square, kasbah and great mosque – very atmospheric!  Late in the evening the muezzins struck up the call to prayer from several minarets at once and the effect was quite moving.

A typical Chefchaouen street

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View from the restaurant of the main square with Kasbah and Norfolk island pine!

A view of a city street

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Another street scene

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Looking along the main street to the mountains beyond

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The hotel’s courtyard

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Part of our room

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On the second day of our excursion we drove (or rather, were driven as we had hired a driver for the trip), further up into the mountains to see the waterfalls at Akchour and do some walking from there up into the gorge.   We managed almost 6 miles in temperatures well over 30°C but didn’t quite make it all the way up to the largest falls in the time we had.  The “Petit Cascades” were attractive but heavily colonised by plastic tables and chairs to capitalise on every opportunity to make a little money from providing a refreshment stop.  Some of the tables were actually in the water and every stall had cans of drinks and fresh oranges floating in continuously running water, a “natural fridge” as one sign put it.  There were some deep pools which looked very inviting for a dip, but sadly only youngsters were swimming and ladies here never bare their flesh in the water.  We just had to stay hot and sticky until we arrived back at the boat and dived into a shower and a cold beer.  None of the restaurants, cafes etc here serve alcohol which meant a unique birthday meal for Lindsay!  The gorgeous fresh orange juice served everywhere very cheaply makes up for it though.

The Petit Cascades

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Cool off spots

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The beach here in Tangier is huge and crowded with locals at the weekend.  We walked along most of it and saw a few ladies in full length outfits in the water with their children, but most stayed demurely on the sand.  It has been so interesting to experience a bit more of such a different culture.

 

Tomorrow morning we leave for Spain which we hope will be a rapid crossing of the Straits with favourable wind and currents.  After a pit stop in Gibraltar for cheap fuel (and spirits), we will spend a few nights on the Spanish side before moving on along the coast with destination Sicily by mid August.