Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of Morocco
Chefchaouen the blue pearl of Morocco: Chefchaouen is a real pleasure to visit. Super photogenic, it is known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco. Its medina, the historic center, enchants visitors with its houses, alleys, streets and small buildings completely painted blue. What’s more, this small town is nestled in the heart of the Rif Mountains, a region considered sacred and a place of pilgrimage where ancient prophets are buried.
It was the second city on our 10-day tour Morocco tour, a country that surprised us greatly. If you are planning to go to Morocco
The history of Chefchaouen
The city of Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 by Moulay Ali Ben Rachid, who was a follower of a local prophet. It was at this time that Moors and Jews were fleeing to Morocco to escape the Spanish Inquisition. That’s why Chefchaouen was completely closed off to foreigners. The isolation was so strong that when the Spanish arrived in 1920, they found Jews still speaking a language that hadn’t been heard in Spain for 400 years. When the Spanish returned, many Jewish refugees moved to Israel.
Why is Chefchaouen all blue?
The tradition of painting the buildings blue has religious reasons. The Jews believed that by painting everything blue, they were reminding people that God and heaven were above everything else. Nice, right? And to this day, even though most of the Jews have left, the population continues to paint the city in the color that represents heaven and paradise. In fact, it’s now known to have other advantages, such as keeping mosquitoes away, practicing calmness and attracting tourists!
What to do in Chefchaouen
Apart from admiring the blue medina, Chefchaouen has one of the best souks (markets) I’ve seen in all of Morocco. Lots of colorful tapestries, embroidered babouches, ceramics and spices. I thought it would be better to leave the shopping to Marrakech at the end of the trip, but then I regretted it because I didn’t see so many beautiful things together anywhere else.
Another unmissable program is to wander aimlessly through the blue alleys and staircases. Take pictures of the beautifully decorated doors of the little houses along the way. Go down until you reach the main square where you can get a henna tattoo. There are several cafés and restaurants where you can drink delicious Moroccan mint tea. And try the freshly squeezed orange juice in the alleyways. Fruit is one of Morocco’s treasures!
For the adventurous, and for those staying longer, it’s good to know that in the mountainous surroundings of Chefchaouen there are several trails that lead to beautiful viewpoints, from where you can have a panoramic view of the blue historic center of the city.
Where to stay in Chefchaouen
We stayed in the medina, which is undoubtedly the best place to stay. We stayed at Dar Zambra, a traditional guesthouse with only a few rooms and very personalized treatment. Breakfast was served on the terrace from where you could see the view of the mountains and the blue medina below.
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If you sleep there one night, you’ll experience being woken up at 6am (photo below) by the call to prayer coming from the mosque. Muslims pray at least 5 times a day and this call is propagated by the minaret of the mosques.
How long to stay in Chefchaouen
We stayed one day and that was enough to see the main sights. Ideally, you should sleep one night so that you can wander around the medina before the many visitors who come every day. Around 12 noon, the streets start to fill up with people and calm down again towards the end of the afternoon.
How to get to Chefchaouen
We arrived by car from Casablanca. As I mentioned, we travelled on a private tour with a driver organized by the Sahara Morocco Tours. The drive from Casablanca to Chefchaouen took 5 hours (approx. 340 km).