In nineteen ninety six when I was twenty years old and travelling through Europe, I decided to catch a train to the southernmost part of Spain and from there board a ferry to Morocco. I was heading towards the Rif mountain town of Chefchaouen, a place my Lonely Planet manual described as small and safe. It seemed a sensible entry to North Africa and besides it was blue. I love blue.
Upon arrival I fell in love with the town instantly. I had never seen such a wonderful place. Completely overwhelmed sensorially it was difficult to leave. I could never pinpoint what it was exactly that enawed me so much, it was more than just aesthetics and the thrill of an entirely different culture, everything felt in place, there was a rhythm, a calmness that I experienced that I could not put into words. The cynical part of me laughed that it was because everyone was stoned (it is hash making country) but at the time I knew it was something more. It has taken me many years to truly grasp what that in placeness was and it still remains a subjective experience, one that many would dismiss as fantasy.
For almost twenty years I longed to visit this place again, it became entrenched in my own personal mythology. The starting point of my journey in Islam I couldn’t help wondering if I was simply affording it a significance steeped in romanticism.
But when I finally had the opportunity to return I was not disappointed.
I love this mountain town with all my heart, it is the city of my soul, whatever that means.
The return was utterly wonderful.
And I truly hope it is not another twenty years before I make it back there again!