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.
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.
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.
We rode past a bunch of microgardens, where the villagers had developed a way to cultivate herbs and some vegetables in the middle of the desert. We passed a desert oasis, complete with palm trees and fresh water. We rode all the way to the beach, which was one of the most beautiful, serene, pure, clean beaches I’ve ever seen. The sand was smooth and white, the water clear and soothing. The setting sun and the ocean mist coated everything with a soft gold halo.
Bissap: Not a dish, but a drink! It’s a strong infusion of hibiscus flowers, made by boiling water, adding dried hibiscus flowers, sealing the container and letting it chill. The Senegalese add plenty of sugar to make it sweet, and often a bit of vanilla. It tastes like the best fruit juice I’ve ever had, though it’s not from a fruit. I plan to buy several sacks of the dried flowers so that I can make some at home.
L’Ile de Gorée is one of the most beautiful places in Senegal. The colorful houses and quaint narrow streets are unbelievably charming. The artisan’s markets are beautiful to browse, and the variety of the handmade art is surprising, given how small the island is. It’s more diverse than most markets in Dakar, at least as far as art and jewelry. In spite of its beauty, Gorée has a dark history. It played a central role in the slave trade out of Africa. At least 100 million slaves passed through Gorée, through the Maison des Esclaves.