Situated in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is the Blue Pearl of the kingdom. Famous for its photogenic blue-hued walls and houses, the city is one of the most treaded grounds by tourists.
Founded in 1471 by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, the city was originally a small kasbah designated to defend the Portuguese. The city was seized by the Spanish in 1920 and was only returned after the independence of Morocco in 1956.
The city is also known as Chaouen, a domestic name given by Moroccans. It is a popular tourist destination because of its vicinity of Tangier and Spanish enclave of Ceuta. This is the reason why the city is a home to more than two hundred hotels and caters as a popular shopping destination with numerous handicrafts shops. The city is also known for goat cheese, which is popular among tourists as well.
Tale of the Blue-Rinsed City
The fact that Chefchaouen is washed in blue color with its walls and houses all hued still remains a point of interest for many. There are many theories that try to suggest as to why is the city painted in this particular color.
According to some, the color was a way of keeping away the mosquitoes, while others believe it symbolizes sky and heaven, serving a reminder of a spirituality. There is a third theory that claims that Jew refugees who fled Hitler’s Germany and sought haven in this city painted it blue in 1930s.
However, no theories have been proven.
Chefchaouen and Its Countryside
The city is popular for more things than just its blue hues and historical sites. The third reason behind the city’s popularity is its cultivation of kief, cannabis. The countryside of Chefchaouen is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco.
A nearby tourist attraction is the Kef Toghobeit Cave, which is the deepest cave in Morocco and third deepest in Africa. The cave is currently known to be 722 meters deep, however geologists affirm that the numbers could be higher.
The cave is well-explored, though its full extent is still unknown. The inside of the cave is covered in rubbles and loose boulders.
The Scenic Beauty of Chefchaouen
Perched on the foothills of the peaks of Rif range of Atlas Mountains, the city offers a spectacular view of nature. The sunset and sunrise are an artistic combination of colorful sky, glowing mountains, and the city changing shades under the changing light of the sun. The higher points of the artsy town serve as vantage points from where you can savor the panoramic sight of Atlas, verdant valleys, and the blue-rinsed houses.
The Perks of Visiting Chefchaouen
With four imperial cities and a bustling Casablanca, Chefchaouen often gets overshadowed. However, because of the generous number of tourists visiting it regularly, the city has gentrified quite swiftly and definitely learnt how to welcome its guests.
It offers a range of accommodations to choose from, many food junctions that serve delicious Moroccan dishes and international cuisines, restored and well-preserved historical sites, and finally, a no-hassle peaceful atmosphere, surrounded by green hills.
Top Landmarks in Chefchaouen
There’s a lot you can explore in the city. Here is a list that will make it easy to curate your ideal personalized itinerary.
Medina – One of the prettiest medinas in Morocco, this fortified city is small and uncrowded with swirling streets painted in shades of blue and white. Certain parts of the medina are decorated with terracotta tiles that remind of the Andalusian influence on the city.
In the center of the medina is the Plaza Uta El Hammam with its red-colored kasbah that stands adjacent to the Grand Mosque. Inside the kasbah is a tranquil garden, a museum, and an art gallery to explore.
Waterfall of Ras El Maa – Situated beyond the northeastern gate of the medina is this waterfall gushing out of the mountain. The sound of water and leaves rustling on the trees offer a serene place to spend the sunny afternoon.
Spanish Mosque – Constructed in 1920s by the Spanish, the mosque stands as the memoir of the colonial years. Once crumbling into rubbles, the mosque has been restored. Sitting on the hilltop with a high minaret, the mosque offers a clear and farther view of city and its mountainous surroundings.
The visitors can take the 45-minute hiking trail from Bab Al Ansar. The route will pass through the Ras El Maa river and spiral through the villages before stopping at the mosque.
Food in the Blue City
The historic blue city offers some great places to eat. Here is a small listing that will help you choose the best eatery for your taste.
Restaurant Aladdin – The place serves dishes centered around Moroccan and Spanish cuisines, including Spanish omelet, kefta, all kinds of tajine, and couscous. The enchanting atmosphere sets the right mood for a romantic dinner.
Pizzeria Mandala – As the name suggests, the restaurant is mostly about Italian cuisine. Just steps away from Outa Hammam, it is the place you go to for a delicious plate of pasta or pizza.
Al Kasbah – Visit the restaurant to enjoy authentic native dishes in the traditional Moroccan ambience. Al Kasbah is drenched in the color of the city, you can choose to sit in the dining room or outside that is surrounded by plants.
Les Raisins – Looking for a vantage point to enjoy food while admiring the mountainous landscape? Then Les Raisins is the restaurant you head towards. It offers both Moroccan and international cuisines.
Chefchaouen or the Blue Pearl of Morocco is one of the most beautiful cities in the kingdom and cannot be missed at any cost. It’s for everyone, be it history buff, shopaholic, or holiday maker. The athletic will find haven in the high peaks of Rif range. There are trekking and hiking trails for outdoor action.