Chefchaouen is a relatively small town nestled in the Rif mountains in the northern part of Morocco. The Medina is up on a hill, overlooking the rest of the city. The streets twist and wind up and down through the markets, an endless maze of rugs, blankets, leather products, art and clothing. The best part is that everything is various shades of blue.
Though we spent most of our time in larger cities like Dakar and Saint Louis, we did have the opportunity to visit some smaller villages. Life there is very different from life in the city, and I loved getting to meet and talk to the people there. They have such an open, friendly, community-oriented philosophy of life, and were incredibly welcoming to us. In fact, it surprised me how willing they were to let us into their lives.
In spite of the unpleasant odor and filth, I’m really glad we went. It was eye-opening for me as far as the state of fisheries in Africa and elsewhere. I’d never visited a fishery before, and though I’d read about them and seen pictures, none of that compares to what you learn and feel while walking through one yourself.
Fes, in a few words, is a sprawling, twisting labyrinth. Especially in the medina. We hired a guide to take us around, since we knew that even locals often get lost in the narrow maze-like passageways. We spent most of the day in the medina, starting with the Andalusian side and making our way over to the markets and the tanning quartier.
We went downtown on Friday afternoon to see the grand prayer at the mosque there. The streets were so crowded, the closest we could get was two blocks away from the mosque. The streets had been transformed into an extension of the mosque, with hundreds and hundreds of people laying out mats and rugs in the middle of the street itself to pray. We stood behind them and watched. It gave me chills to see the unity and faith of the people there. All across the city, thousands of men and women were praying at the same time to the same God. Of course, as soon as the prayer ended, the street went back to its previous state of commerce and chaos, but for a moment everything was quiet and still.
Friends, you have to believe me when I say that pictures would never be enough to show you how grand and tall and overall enormous this mosque is. A thousand words wouldn’t do it either. So, I didn’t really attempt to show its size; I chose instead to focus on some of the many tiny and intricate details that make Moroccan architecture (and this mosque) so special.