Chefchaouen is probably the bluest place in the entire world, and that doesn’t mean that Muddy Waters and B.B. King set up home here! Rather, virtually everything that can be has been painted blue by the locals.
The blueness that sets this city apart from all others has a very curious history. During the 15th century, many Jews were expelled from or fled Spain. Some came to Chefchaouen in Morocco, where they established themselves and began the tradition of painting their homes blue.
For those medieval Jews, blue signified their heavenly Father. It’s amazing to think that even after so many centuries this marvelous tradition has been maintained by the locals.
With the historic founding of Israel shortly after World War II, almost all of the city’s Jewish population took the chance to wave goodbye to Chefchaouen and start a new life back in their true fatherland. However, the city has kept up the Jewish tradition anyway.
It’s the blueness that has made Chefchaeouen one of Morocco’s most famous places, despite being a small city of 43,000 inhabitants. Naturally, the local council make sure the locals have enough paintbrushes to keep the place looking so blue. Yet there is more than just color to see here…
The town center is where you’ll find the city’s old fortress. This was built around the time of the town’s foundation (1471) to protect it from the Portuguese.
Because Chefchaouen is built on a hill, walking around here can really take it out of you, especially during the sunniest and hottest months of the year. However, this is one day well spent, as you can see from these wonderful photographs.
In such a lazy and peaceful town you’ll have the perfect opportunity to look at the local mosques, which are as blue as the rest of the town. There are several important mosques in Chefchaouen, such as the Grand Mosque at Uta Hammam in the town square.
The town square is where you’ll find the old Kasbah, which was previously used as a prison but now has a gorgeous Andalusian garden.
Inside the Kasbah there’s a museum telling the city’s story. At the top of the building there are terrific panoramic city views on offer. While, below you can visit the old dungeons.
You could have great fun haggling over prices for the interesting objet d’art for sale at the Medina. Some local favorites include wool, camel-hair blankets, jewelry, silverware, slippers and pottery – all uniquely Moroccan in style and origin.
The local menu is quite sumptuous too. The dish of choice for most travelers is Chefchaouen’s fish tagine, with vegetables, spices and couscous. The local bread is very nice indeed, and you may even see it being baked in classic wood-fired ovens. You should also try the local brew: Moroccan mint tea!
The name of the city derives from a Berber word, Ichaoen, which means horns. This is due to the horn shaped Rif Mountains that encircle Chefchaouen. You should take a stroll up and around these lovely green mountains.
Even though the dry desert is not so far away, the valleys and mountains of this district are quite picturesque, and somewhat removed from most people’s notions of Africa.
You can access the city only by bus, car - or camel! Though I heartily recommend the former two options! The city is located about 115 miles from Tangier. This journey should take around two hours by car.