Travel is strange, we visit a place for a moment in time and we leave our impact on it as it leaves an impact on us. We build an impression of a place by what we experienced during our time there and then carry on. As time goes by that impression changes as we compare it to places we have been and places we will be going. It becomes another piece of our collective memory. If you loved the place it can be for many reasons and most of the times it’s because everything collided in that moment in time and was perfect for you. That was the case during my first visit to Chefchaouen over 4 years ago.
Chefchaouen is a town set in the north western part of Morocco with the beautiful Rif Mountains as its backdrop. It’s a town where its medina (old town) is painted a million shades of blue. It’s a town I fell in love with and knew when I left I would have to revisit one day. I didn’t know that day would be so soon. While I was in Europe I kept thinking about how close I would be to Morocco and kept thinking of this blue little town. So finally thought, “fuck it why not go back if even to just visit this town I love so much and then carry on”. So I did just that. After having a blast at Gay Pride in Benidorm and non stop travel in Europe I was excited to go back to a place I had already been and rest a bit.
Before arriving though I was scared. I kept thinking…
“What if I go back and ruin the memory I have of this place?”
“What if I go back and it’s not like I remember it was?”
“What if I go back and… and… and???”
My thoughts and questions were nonstop, but my excitement to go back outweighed the fears I had. I arrived in Algeciras, Spain and it was deja-vu from there. I arrived at the same train station, stayed at the same hostel, took the same ferry to Ceuta and then the same bus to cross the same border and haggle with taxi drivers to get to Chefachouen. I couldn’t believe that even 4 years later the processes was exactly the same. Their was one difference though… I didn’t cry the night before. Ahh yes I remember vividly crying like a little bitch in my own room the night before going to Morocco. Jajaja… I laugh now, but I remember how terrified I was then to be going to my first Arab country… my first Muslim country and my first African country. I was born and raised in the USA and even though I do not have any prejudices against any of them… we have been conditioned to fear all three. We don’t realize what stereotypes the media ingrain in us until it’s time to face them. Oh I was so scared because I thought the worst and it turned out to be one of the easiest border crossing ever. I knew that was the case and wasn’t worried this time around and it was easy peasy again. It was a short transportation day and when I arrived in Chefchaouen… I couldn’t believe it.
I walked in the medina and it all came back to me. I couldn’t stop smiling. A rush of happiness and joy ran through my entire body. I was thrown back into the calm chaos that is Chefchaouen with all its shades of blue. Once again I was lost trying to find my hostel, because it’s just a maze of blue. When I did find it I put my bags down in my tiny $9 a night private room and walked out to just walk around. That’s what I did the 5 days I was there. The medina is just a blue labyrinth of alleys going in every direction possible. When you think you know where you are going you really don’t and half the time walk in circles until you finally take a random turn and some how end up on the other side of it. Oh it was amazing… and before I continue here are some of my favorite photos from my time there.
Ahhhh isn’t it crazy beautiful? What was even more amazing though is during my 5 days there I realized that nothing had changed. Chefchaouen is still the same little blue town that I loved then and for the same reasons. It’s a town where time has frozen. It’s a town where donkeys still carry things to shops. It’s a town where people are still making hand made crafts from little shops in their homes. It’s a town where the market is along its alleys. It’s a town where the people still sit on their door steps to pass time. It’s a town where the children run around playing ball and will pose for you if they see you taking a photo near by. It’s a town where the call to prayer is still heard 5 times a day. It’s a town that is calm, peaceful and perfect to me.
Honestly the only thing I noticed that changed is that now just about every restaurant and cafe shop have WiFi. Yes that’s it. I was surprised to see that it seemed like the same number of tourist were visiting and that no chain hotels or restaurants had moved in anywhere. I also realized why I was so scared to revisit. I was terrified to tarnish the perfect memory I had of it. As a long term traveler we are rarely given the chance to tarnish a memory of a place we loved, because we are constantly on the move visiting new places. Especially when it comes to the small towns we fall in love with because we know how fast tourist can make a place change. This could have been different… I could have returned and it not been like I remember it and it would taint my previous memory. Glad that wasn’t the case though. I’m so glad I went back, because honestly life’s too short to not revisit some of the places we love.