Halfway through our February break, we found ourselves in Chefchaouen, also known as the blue city, most of the old medina is painted various shades of blue. Chefchaouen is infested with two things, hippies and mosquitoes. Luckily, going in February the only one we had to battle were the hippies , and at least they don’t bite. Our riad, (Riad Baraka) was the best overall experience I have stayed at in Morocco. It was so clean you could confuse it with being touristy. It had a great feel and was very dignified considering it must be a hot spot for your average twenty-something stoned traveler. The city is truly beautiful, the mountains that surround it are underrated and I questioned why I had not been pushed here sooner during my time in Morocco.
Throughout the winding alleys of the medina we found a few berber clothing shops and some art shops, one in particular that included a very laid back, proud Moroccan artist. After talking with him he quoted his work at rockbottom prices without any bartering, which lead to all 4 of us buying at least one piece. If only cab drivers worked this way in Casablanca…
At this point in the vacation we were a tajined out, (which seems to happen every trip) so we were on the search for something different. That something different was “Mandala, International Restaurant and Backgammon Club”. This place was right out of a chapter of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The walls and ceiling were hand painted with snakes, unicorns, and designs that seemed to have no rhyme or reason beyond the outrageous color schemes. Hanging from the ceiling were pieces of copy paper that were colored in with crayons and colored pencils. At first I thought it was something to keep the kids occupied while their parents ate, but the art was very detailed. As we sat down a man was sitting in the middle of the restaurant with an unlimited amount of mint tea and food, working away at a few pieces of paper.
The menu was extensive, offering 30 different teas, as well as Moroccan, Italian, and Indian food. I ordered a cheese steak with peppers, fried zucchini, and tomatoes. I ordered that cheese steak with high expectations, and when they brought out this “cheese steak” the look on my face may have been worth the price of the dinner for my fellow travelers.
When you see “cheese steak” at an International Restaurant and Backgammon Club you shouldn’t assume something that resembles a philly cheese steak, you should assume a round chunk of exotic cheese that is grilled. My hipster meter leveled up, my pants became skinnier, and the shirt I was wearing may have tripled in value as soon as that plate was set down in front of me. Needless to say, once I started eating it, I was happy with the misunderstanding. On the menu of teas was a Pakistan tea, which from one of my first experiences in a Moroccan taxi has a special place in my traveling heart. Since I was in full beard mode I ordered the gingery, apricot based tea and drank it down with pride, Pakistani look-alike pride.