Within the Blue City Medina there are seven mosques. If this number seems excessive, consider the number of places for worship that you might find in a town with a population of approximately 35,000. In our small community of Gold Beach (population 2,000) there were at least 10 churches. You don’t see too many churches in Morocco, Islam being the main religion but there is a mosque in every neighborhood to facilitate the faithful to attend as many calls to prayer as possible throughout the day. There is a particular style of architecture for mosques in this region near Aouchtam and Oued Laou that features a white building and a tower structure trimmed in pale blue or green. This may be a relatively modern adaptation, I don’t really know. But as we approached Chefchaouen, I noticed that the mosques were simpler in design and not trimmed with colors. This was true for all the mosques within the Medina, as well as the one that called to me from the distant hill. In the countryside of Morocco I have often seen mosques built on hilltops.
After lunch and a rest (at least we had enough sense to take a rest before we began our second hike of the day) we trekked up the 100 steps to get to the street that would take us back through the Water Garden, over the rug-drying bridge to the trailhead on the other side of the canyon.
This trail began as the Tower Trail had – cobbled and wide. However, before too long the “road narrowed” and the “pavement ended” offering us a wider version of the sub-trail that Tomas had taken earlier in the day. Now we were on a “working” trail – we had seen the Berbers bringing their laundry down to the “Laundromat” by donkey along this path several times. And suddenly, a Berber woman was meeting us and offering us the opportunity to buy a headscarf from the basket on her hip. She was not about to let us pass without buying something and as I looked through her assortment, I discovered the perfect “dyed to-match” scarf for the tunic I had just purchased in the Medina the day before and which I just happened to be wearing. She asked us for 5 dirham ($.60 US) and the scarf went on my head, under my sunhat – Berber style.
From the moment we began to climb, the views of Chefchaouen were spectacular. I took photo upon photo all the way up to the mosque, at which point, I took some more.
The cacti were in bloom and the countryside was refreshed from the prior day’s rain. A herd of goats grazed beside the trail and shortly a young girl with a dog drove them up the hillside, eventually turning them to graze in the fields behind the mosque. At the midway point we encountered a large Berber home, right beside the trail with multiple generations of family sitting along both sides of the pathway, chickens running in and out of the house and a cow grazing just across from the kitchen door.
OK, I grew up on a farm where we routinely had orphaned lambs in the kitchen during the rainy season and my mother even raised ducks in our kitchen once, so who am I to judge? Very interesting scenery let me put it that way!
The Mosque came closer and closer, the mountains grew taller and taller and the air seemed rarified, as I imagine it might feel at the higher elevations in the great mountain ranges of the world. The mosque was in excellent condition and the grounds were well maintained. The last hundred yards of the trail were once again broad and cobbled with gentle stairs taking us up to a wide platform surrounding the building. From there the views were DOWN in three directions and UP to the mountain peaks on the eastern side. Chefchaouen was at our feet. Beyond the city rose the western mountains, populated and cultivated by Berber farming families.
And to the south – rolling hills, revealing the next village, including its own little mosque on a hill. I felt as though I were in one of those fairy tale illustrations that repeats itself forever as your eye moves toward an ever-receding horizon. We sat in contemplation on a wall under some fig trees before beginning our descent. I felt so peaceful, so quiet inside. Of course, this was the perfect setting for a place of worship. I was up on the mountain with God and the goats.