The Legend of the Blue City of Chefchaouen (1)
A while ago, while writing this, I declared I was not really satisfied with the legend of blue colour that made Chefchaouen famous. Some say it was introduced by the Jews, who fled Hitler, during WW2. Others say that it used from practical reasons: it keeps mosquitos away. I could testify to that, since I haven’t gotten stung once, while there. But then again, what mosquitos live in such a dry area?
It was all too shady and boring and uninteresting. So I concluded that Chefchaouen needs a proper legend for it’s blueness. This is it.
The Legend of the Blue City of Chefchaouen
It was yet another hot afternoon in Chefchaouen. I had walked through the desert, all the way from Tangier in search for some peace. Wanted to leave the shore behind and the Mediterranean with it. The sea reminded me of his eyes, those immensely blue always questioning eyes. I loved them so much, but I had to forget them, to rip their memory out of myself. But I couldn’t do that so well, so I decided to try and hate them. But that didn’t really work either – it’s impossible to hate something that doesn’t exist anymore.
So I walked, I walked through the pain.
I could feel the dust in my nostrils and on my tongue, clothes all dirty and sweat on my temples. It was very tempting to stop at the spring at the city gate and wet my neck and hands. But I had to keep going if I were to find some shelter and food for the day.
The city stuffed with merchants shouting their precious goods, noise echoing through the narrow cobblestoned streets. My foreign appearance gave me away, people tried to convince me to buy, I was on the verge of tears because of exhaustion. Hadn’t eaten in two days, but was horribly thirsty and longing for all my pain to be over and all the blue in the world to disappear, so I wouldn’t remember the color of his eyes any more.
So I walked higher and higher, till the top of the village, only to find a beautiful vista under a tree. I sat, wiped my forehead and looked in the distance, trying to come up with a plan. Suddenly I found myself murmuring the lyrics
“Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone
Ain’t not one when he’s away
Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone
And he’s always gone too long
Everytime he goes away”.
And I started to cry, a soft wailing cry of the resigned. Thousand of kilometres were not enough. The hursh colorless desert was not enough. The melting heat was not enough. Nothing seemed to be strong enough to rip him from my heart, to un-blue me.
“Limadha tabki?” (1)
I lifted my eyes, but could only see blur. Wiped my face and distinguished a kid, big brown eyes, a dirty red T-shirt and blue shorts, barefoot, couldn’t have been older than 8-9.
“Sorry, I don’t speak Arabic. La ‘afham.”
“Limadha tabki?” he repeated, eyes even bigger.
I stood up and had the impulse to go closer, as if that would have helped me understand him better. He redrew, without going away though, so I sat back again.
Some minutes later, maybe 15 – lost track of time, I heard the same voice.
“Fari ‘aba?” (2)
The kid had come closer this time and was handing me a metal cup. I took it and, against any warnings, I drank. It was unexpectedly cold and I felt it all the way to my stomach.
“Shakar!” (3) I murmured and bowed.
Something had probably changed a lot in my appearance with that cup of water, because the little boy, very concentrated and aware of my every move, seemed to relax now into a big smile, teeth missing. He waved me to follow him.
His house, not far away from the top of the hill, was tight. A big room on the ground floor. We didn’t stop there. We climbed up a dark staircase that led into a kitchen. A young woman, cooking something on a clay oven, smiled.
“Hello! Welcome!” she said in English.
Now I know that relief looks like a woman speaking English.
“Hello, my name is Ana. Thank you for the water. Shakar!”
“My name is Alia and this is Hassan.”, she motioned to the little boy, now standing outside of the kitchen, on a terrace. Hassan smiled still, his eyes small, avoiding the sun.
In a flawless English, without even trying to be subtle, Alia questioned me about my whereabouts: Where was I from? What was I doing in Chefchaouen? How long was I planning to stay? Was I sick? And, most important of all, why was I crying? I answered calmly and openly, knowing about Moroccan invasive nature and, more than anything, I had nothing to hide. Truth be told, I was happy to be sheltered from the hot sun.
“I was born in Germany, now it feels like a long time ago, but lived in many places throughout my life. For the last two years I’ve been travelling around the world, learning and writing about other cultures. It’s my first time in Morocco, they told me to come to Chefchaouen. This is where stories begin, they said. I have no idea what it means, but it sounded good. I need a new story. A new beginning.”
“Is this why you cry?”, her eyes pierced me while she was stirring in a pot.
“A beginning? I cannot promise that. People come here for lots of reasons. Leather, cannabis,, carpets, jewelry, never beginnings, but who knows, maybe you are special.”
She unravelled the warmest of laughs, made it impossible for me to be upset at her teasing.
– To be continued-
(1) Why are you crying?
(2) Want some water?
(3) Thank you!