The Moroccan Sapphire

Chefchaouen – the blue city in the hills

I started hyperventilating on arrival. My favourite colour is blue, not just the odd top or pair of shoes, no, this is a lifestyle. I had already been dragged out of Les Jardins Majorelle in Marrakesh, Yves Saint Laurent’s elegant hideaway, for fear I would set up camp amongst the blue flowerpots and never leave and now here I was in Chefchaouen. The minute I arrived I never wanted to leave.

It’s hypnotic. But then, that’s why I like the colour blue, it’s soothing, calming, peaceful. In this fast world where we are to slow down, pay attention, be mindful, none of which I am capable of, I look at the colour blue and I feel serene. And Chefchaouen, despite the tourists, is just that. Serenity literally seeps from the blue walls. It has a laid-back vibe, an under-commercialised air, an aura of tranquillity. It has echoes of Mijas in Andalucía, without the donkeys or the Brits. The tourists pass through, the Moroccans continue with daily life. It has a different energy from the softer existence of Marrakesh.  Life in the Rif is harder, grittier, these are mountain people.

We had driven through the night, ears popping in the car as we climbed higher and higher. Leaving behind Marrakesh, Rabat, Casablanca, Ifrane, Fez, up and up we drove, winding roads, sheer drops on one side, thank God for the darkness, whiling away the hours talking about the cultural differences-many, similarities – few.  Morocco, so geographically close to Europe, so culturally far away. Spell-bound, I listened to my Moroccan friend elaborate on romance, arranged marriages, polygamy, the older, foreign expat woman with the younger Moroccan man, the systemic passport marriages.  We talked about hammam, hygiene, food, drink, mint tea, Argan oil, souks, bargaining, tagine, couscous, Moroccan mamas, Irish mamas, we covered a lot of ground that night as well as mileage.

Our arrival was late, the city was dark, but the B&B was blue, all over! I kept touching blue items of furniture reverently, hardly able to believe such a dedication to blue existed outside my house, my room and my wardrobe. The following morning, we awoke to bright winter sunshine and ate on the terrace, delicious, Mediterranean delights and I drank in the vista of blue before me.

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