Morocco’s Blue City

chefchaouen-by-singa-hitamThe heart of the Rif, the Moroccan mountain range that runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea, hides a small village that looks like it has just come out of a tale from One Thousand and One Nights.

The Berber are the indigenous population who inhabit this region, but Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 by a distant descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Many Jewish and Morisco exiles from Andalusia soon established here, giving Chefchaouen a similar look to the villages of Southern Spain. This influence can be recognized in Chefchaouen’s very narrow streets, in the buildings covered by white lime, in the shingled roofs and the luxuriant courtyards.

untitled-by-emcConsidered a Holy City by the Muslims, strangers have been allowed to enter only after the Spanish managed to impose their protectorate (1912-1956).
Nonetheless Chefchaouen still remains relatively unknown to most tourists who favor the imperial cities and the seashore.

The blue color that covers the houses walls, the stairways, the front doors and the windows, makes this small town even more special. The different shades of blue stand out from the white of the lime walls and provide picturesque glimpses that enchant visitors.
It seems that a religious reason stands behind this choice of colors as the jewish migrants who took shelter here after escaping the Inquisition painted the town blue as a tribute to their god.

It’s easy to lose track of time while wandering around the colorful and narrow streets of the Medina (the older part of the town that extends towards the mountains), watching the local women do the laundry in the clear waters of Ras al-Ma springs, tasting a flavorful tajine at an open-air restaurant, or sipping a mint tea while listening to the evening chants of the muezzin.

untitled-by-j-duvalChefchaouen is located about 100km (62mi) south west of Tangier and can be reached by bus from Fez and Tetouan, as well as from the other main cities of Morocco.
The local craft shops sell colorful wool clothes, cedar-wood items and terracotta tajines, their typical cooking pot.
Don’t forget to try the Jben, a fresh goat cheese that’s only produced here!

This small town also has a dark and smoky side. It could easily be considered as Morocco’s Amsterdam: due to a special tolerance of the local authorities, a high volume of hashish is produced around here. This ancient activity originated among the Berber, who have passed down their growing techniques from generation to generation.


Picture Credits:
Chefchaouen by Franx’ (CC BY-NC 2.0)
untitled by J Duval (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Chefchaouen by Singa Hitam (CC BY 2.0)
impasse (Chefchaouen) by Hugues (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Escalier bleu by Jean-François Gornet (CC BY-SA 2.0)
impasse – Chefchaouen by Hugues (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Chefchaouen by denverkid (CC BY 2.0)
Chefchaouen, The blue beauty by Pejman Parvandi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Fabrics in Chefchaouen by Alex Johnson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Chefchaouen by Admanchester (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
untitled by emc (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
P1020538.jpg by dm1795 (BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Chefchaouen by Singa Hitam (CC BY 2.0)
Chefchaouen by Singa Hitam (CC BY 2.0)
untitled by Kristal Dale (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Chefchaouen by Singa Hitam (CC BY 2.0)

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