The Blue Pearl and Reminders from the Sahara Desert

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Last Friday, August 2nd, we visited Taounet (87 km North of Fes) and Chefchaouen (211 North of Fes). I had the great privilege and honor to meet with my Professor’s family in Taounet. His beloved mother, older, and youngest brother Khalid – who is our driver as well- hosted graciously us Friday. We visited their childhood elementary and high school.  We also played a game of basketball with some of the locals by the courts near the school in the evening. That same evening, we had the pleasure to attend an “äqiqa” party. An “äqiqa”is celebrated on the 7th day of a newborn child. A name is selected for the baby on this day. Family, friends, and the needy are fed while enjoying live Moroccan music, dances, and food. On Saturday morning, we left for the “Blue Pearl”; it is a city called Chefchaouen and is 211 km North of Fes.

I had the honor to also meet my professor’s sister and her children in Taounet.


Chefchaouen has been, by far, the prettiest city I have visited in Morocco. The Blue Pearl is the bluest city my eyes have ever met. The name of the city originates from the Arabic Darija dialect; the word “Chef”means to “look” and “chaouen” means “horns.”

The breathtaking city is located between the horns of two mountains, off of the highway. Historians say that it was the perfect location to hide our Jewish brothers and sisters in humanity during the Holocaust and hence, there is lots of rich Jewish history in this gorgeous city as well.

Some famous theories of why it is blue is as follows:

1) It was painted blue to keep mosquito away.

2) In the 1930s, Jewish people took refuge in the Blue Pearl and introduced blue to the Moroccans and thus painted the city blue.

3) It was painted blue as it symbolizes the heavens and prosperity. One should aim to lead a righteous life in order to obtain it.

4) Some locals say it is simply a tactic to attract tourists.

Right to Left: Prof Elidrissi, Narmeen, Alexis, and I sit down in to take a photo on one of the many allies of the Blue Pearl

However, be wary if you visit Chefchaouen; there are many people selling cannabis on the streets. The near by cities produces massive amounts of cannabis and we drove past endless miles of farms growing them. My professor informed us that it is legal to grow them in Morocco. However to sell or consume it is illegal. Yes, very strange indeed.

After spending  Saturday night in Chefchaouen, we returned to Fes to spend out last two days at the Hospital. We continued our stay in the Radiotherapy Department and had a celebratory event with the Vice President and Secretary General where we were awarded certificates indicating our completion of the program at CHU.

Certificate award ceremony upon completing our clinical hours. Left to right: General Secratary Fuáad, Dr. El Idirissi, Me, Alexis, Michael, and Vice President Madam Nawal.

On Tuesday night, we also invited all the supervising doctors and residents that took time to educate us and allowed us to shadow them to a dinner in Al Fassia Riad in the Old Fes. We had a wonderful evening of food, live music, performances that ranged from magic tricks, fake weddings, belly dancers, and other traditional dances. It was the most memorable night I had in Fes.

Doctors from CHU accepted our invitation and made our night very special. They rock!

On Wednesday we left for the Sahara desert in Marzugha. We spent Saturday night camping in the desert. The endless desert was a great reminder of sorts. I was excited at first, then scared when the sun went down and there was no light.

However, the beauty and powerful light of the moon and stars amazed me and brought me comfort. I was also reminded how grand this desert is and I am not even a spec of sand in comparison to the Sahara. How much more magnificent and endless is our universe.

The Sahara is not even a spec of dust in comparison. So what is our standing when compared to the universe? I had these meditating and philosophical thoughts during the night and praised the Being who created it all. I then fell asleep very comfortably under the starred Moroccan sky.

On our camel ride back to mainland on Sunday morning, we took a hiatus to watch the sunrise and take a selfie with my camel.

Watching the sunrise sitting on the Saharan sand was worth the trip!

Sunday morning, we left for Marrakesh. It was a long 12 hour drive! The longest and uncomfortable road trip I have ever endured in my life. I will be back to write to you about Marrakesh and what I learned from this Moroccan trip!

Peace and Blessings – <3 Mohammed