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Chefchaouen

ChefchaouenThe local bus finally arrived in Chefchaouen and the touts were waiting. Still a bit freaked out from our manic friends in Tetouan, Colin and I pretended not to speak English, and although this helped get rid of many of them, our backpacks simply attracted more as we walked through town. The touts were mainly guys in their twenties, tough, but unhealthy looking, with puffy faces from years of hard substance abuse, and their offers were always tinged with a touch of implied violence. It was impossible trying to get through town without being harassed by them so we sought refuge in a cafe once more, Colin stayed with the bags, and I went off to find a hotel room.

It was like being in the Village of the Damned. You could hardly move without someone trying to sell you hash or be your guide, and unfortunately, we'd now taken to ignoring most locals who spoke to us, as almost always, they would turn out to be touts. We were relieved to eventually get into a room, throw our bags down, and close the door. It had been a long, tough day.

We'd come to Chefchaouen as several people we'd met had described it as the most beautiful and laid-back place they'd been to in Morocco. It is indeed beautiful, set high in the Rif Mountains with a quant old, cobbled square, and blue painted alleyways, but the continual hassle from drug pushers ruined it for us. Many different things give two people a completely different opinion of a place, making it either paradise or hell; the weather, someone who insults you or is helpful, or just how you're feeling when you arrive. Probably being stoned out of your face for your entire visit changes your perception too.

As soon as we walked out of the hotel, someone was immediately trying to sell us hashish - and the slogan of the town seemed to be, "You have the paranoia" if you turned them down. Even a waiter said this to us when we didn't eat in a restaurant. It was all far from the chilled experience we'd been told about.

We did, however, find another favourite in the series of dodgy Moroccan restaurants we'd been eating in. Absolutely filthy, but packed full of locals, and very cheap, it made fantastic chicken and chip sandwiches with an added edge. You had a 50% chance of choking on one large, sharp chicken bone hidden inside them. Inshallah.

As Ramadan had just started, it was impossible to find any beer - but, of course, drugs were still being pushed everywhere. The only option was the depressing Hotel Parador bar, in which the barman seemed to hate everyone, so after hunting around the entire town we finally gave up on finding a drink and returned to the hotel. Usually, we went to bed fairly late, but we were in for a surprise here. Just as we were falling off to sleep, someone started walking around the streets banging a huge drum! This, we put down to the glue sniffing kids we'd seen at night from our hotel window, but it's, apparently, a part of Ramadan. The Misaharaty walks around the town at 03:00, banging his drum to awaken the inhabitants to eat their sohor (the meal eaten before fasting begins again at sunrise). Shortly after this the mosque gives it's first call of the day, so needless to say we didn't get very much sleep at all in Chefchaouen.

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