The Town that was Painted Blue

The blue-washed walls of Chefchaouen, Morocco
The blue-washed walls of Chefchaouen, Morocco

Nestled in the Rif Mountains, just a smidge south of Tangier, Chefchaouen is Morcocco’s famous blue city.

It was first painted blue by its migrant Jewish population who left Europe to settle here after the Spanish Reconquista.

In Jewish tradition, the colour blue symbolizes divinity, and the sight of this hue is said to aid in meditation.

You’ll feel its therapeutic effects as you wander through the town’s streets and alleyways, surrounded by walls painted in varying shades of blue.

Purple Scarf Girl in Chefchaouen, Morocco
Purple Scarf Girl in Chefchaouen, Morocco
The Moorish Tower of the Kasbah in Chefchaouen, Morocco
The Moorish Tower of the Kasbah in Chefchaouen, Morocco

History buffs rejoice

Chefchaouen was established in 1471, when Moulay Ali Ben Moussa ben Rached El Alami built a small fortress here to defend Morocco from Portuguese invasion. This fortress – knows locally as the “kasbah” – still stands today. Its distinctive tower is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture and is a great place to take in 360 degree views of the city and its surroundings. There are also several historic mosques in town, most notably the mosque dedicated to the saint Moulay Abdeslam Ben Mchich Alami, and a Spanish built mosque that sits in ruins on the outskirts of the city.

Chefchaouen is nestled in the Rif Mountains
Chefchaouen is nestled in the Rif Mountains

Mountains for the nature lover

Chefchaouen gets its name from the shape of the surrounding mountains that resemble the horns of a goat. “Ichawen” is the Berber word for horns.

The rugged landscape of the Rif Mountains provides diverse opportunities for every kind of hiker. There are routes that will have you strolling through picturesque valleys, and others that will take you clambering up steep terrain for days.

View of the Rif mountains from the edge of the city
View of the Rif mountains from the edge of the city
Colourful wool woven fabrics line the streets of Chefchaouen, Morocco
Colourful wool woven fabrics line the streets of Chefchaouen, Morocco

A shoppers dream

Every major destination in Morocco offers up expertise in a particular type of handicraft. In Chefchaouen, it’s wool weaving. The streets are lined with vendors selling colourful blankets, and cozy shirts, tunics, jackets, and of course hooded djellabas made from exquisitely woven wool. You will also find all the usual suspects – wood, leather, brass – sprinkled through most shops.

Chefchaouen is a shopper's dream
Chefchaouen is a shopper's dream
Lamb Tagine - a traditional Moroccan meal
Lamb Tagine - a traditional Moroccan meal

Join in on traditional meals

You’ll find just about everything “Morcocan” at any of the restaurants located in the tourist-heavy main square, but for a more authentic flavour head to one of the smaller establishments located away from the main hub bub. Tagines with couscous are traditionally made on Fridays as a special meal after the Friday afternoon prayers.

Street food in Morocco is safe and hygienic throughout the country, so be sure to try specialties like kalinti, a savoury chick pea flan, and briouat, minced chicken or lamb covered in sweet puff pastry.

Kalinti and Briouat
Kalinti and Briouat

Don’t forget to look up

An abundance of clear nights and minimal light pollution make for excellent start gazing opportunities. Most hotels and hostels boast rooftop patios, making it easy to take in the starry skies before ducking down to bed.

Starry night in Chefchaouen, Morocco
Starry night in Chefchaouen, Morocco
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