Alia’s Comment: WordPress has not allowed me to add photos to my text for three days, so I created a FB album of related images for this post. Enjoy the next installment of Tales of the Blue City. Here is that link. You’ll need to copy and paste the URL — no active links available.
It took us five tries and about two hours to find the right hotel. We wanted a room with a bathtub and we found one at the very first place we saw but it was barely wide enough for me to lie in on my side and the hotel was so far away from the central part of the city that we would have needed a taxi for everything. So we had Nizaar park the taxi as close to the Medina as he could get and Azis began to take us from place to place, asking in his best Arabic for a room with a bathtub.
Basically, they don’t have them – because there are public baths throughout the city, so why would anyone want one in their room? The closest they could offer was a room with a private bathroom. Most rooms have SHARED baths.
So after our two-hour initial stairmaster routine, we came to the Hotel Molino Garden, a Moroccan fairy tale of Hobbit scale and we fell in love with the whole place. They had a room with private bath and many other amenities that we discovered shortly, including a gorgeous tropical garden. The prior owner (recently deceased) poured his heart and soul into the place, using a mill theme (there used to be five working grain mills in the area) and featuring grinding wheels prominently in the décor. He ran the property for 15 years and did much of the rock work himself (such as around our fireplace and in our bathroom) until he achieved the desired effect. His son, Austin and Austin’s friend and business partner, Chris, now own the hotel and move between Chefchaouen and Amsterdam where they both grew up.
We quickly settled ourselves in and sent Nizaar and Azis on their way (with much gratitude for their assistance) and proceeded to find ourselves a restaurant for dinner. It was by then 6 PM and for some reason, it felt right to order coffee. Later, as I lay wide awake at 2 AM, it didn’t seem like such a great idea but at dinner it was the thing to do.
Even before we had bread and olives in front of us, we had five cats sitting at our feet under our table. When the main course arrived, their number had grown to at least eight and they stared at us with such determination, beaming their message: “You WILL share some of that bounty with us, won’t you?” It’s hard for me to refuse a cat (even a hardened street cat) and they did get several choice pieces of chicken as the meal progressed. Never in my life have I seen a CAT catch food in mid-air but these were desperados and only the hardiest survive. We call them the Blue City Kitties.
We spent the evening leisurely strolling through the bazaar (Souk) and taking in the richness of so many handmade offerings – textiles, leather goods, clothing, brasswork – nothing wrapped in plastic – each item in its natural state, waiting to be chosen and treasured in someone’s life.
We were so excited when it came time to retire, that we were like little kids, who would rather skip sleeping altogether and just start the next day’s adventures right away. It was getting on toward 11 PM but the streets were still full of children playing (with no cars to contend with, they stay out late, completely safe.) The adults, also, were taking advantage of the cooler hours to converse with one another and catch up with their families and neighbors. But eventually, the people quieted down and I thought: “OK, NOW I’ll get to sleep.”
WRONG! After 11 PM the DOGS come out. I am assuming that the dogs are kept inside during the day in order for the merchants to operate in peace. The mischief of cats is enough to deal with during business hours. And the dogs BARKED and BARKED and BARKED – until about 3 or 4 AM. The 6 PM caffeine order was still expressing itself in my body, so I heard them all.
Eventually though, the dogs settled down and I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes. I was abruptly awakened by the early pre-dawn call to prayer from the mosque next door. It was SO loud that I first thought there must be a device in our room that was broadcasting the morning message. AND — this was not the usual 90 second “commercial” for prayer: “Allah is Great! Come to Prayer. Prayer is better than sleep.” No, this was like the mosque came into our bedroom and delivered the entire morning message for about 15 minutes!!
Surely, after THIS I will get back to sleep.
WAIT FOLKS – THE SHOW’S NOT OVER YET!!!
After the people and the cats and the dogs and the mosque – the ROOSTERS got their turn. From all points in the city, the cowing of roosters greeted the “now official dawn of the new day.”
And with this sound, so familiar to me from both my childhood and my new life in Aouchtam, I fell soundly asleep until 9 AM. And this is the interesting part of the day/night cycle here – no one makes a sound in the morning until at least 8 or 9 o’clock. Everyone is as quiet as stones.
The second night, I did not drink coffee; I used ear plugs and understood the drill about dogs and call to prayer. I slept better. And by the third night, I felt as though I’d been living in the neighborhood for years. Life in the Blue City seems to have a rhythm all its own and I’m starting to pick up the beat.