Have you ever dreamt of visiting a city completely blue?
If you think that’s not possible you are entirely wrong! Nestled in the scenery of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco, just 4 hours drive from the more famous imperial cities of Fes and Meknes, there is a city where everything is blue: Chefchaouen, better known as ”the blue city”.
The houses, the fountains, the doors, the narrow streets are of many different shades, but all blue. Its picturesque medina (the old city) is a maze of narrow and narrow alleyways blue-colored where you would feel as walking on the clouds.
The city was founded in 1471 by the Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, a distant descendant of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, with a population being mainly made up of Andalusians and Moors who were expelled from Spain.
The original settlement consisted of just a small fortress, now referred to as Chefchaouen’s Kasbah and step by step some buildings grew outside of the fortress with the construction of the medina.
During the Ages, local tribes, Moors from Spain, and Jews populated the area, and in 1920 the Spanish conquered the town where they ruled until 1956 when Morocco gained its independence.
Why is Chefchaouen all blue?
There are several beliefs like “to keep mosquitos away”, “to keep cool the houses” or to “symbolize the importance of the city’s Ras el-Maa source of water,” but according to the majority of the locals, it’s blue to follow the Jewish custom and culture.
In Jewish beliefs, the blue colour represents the sky that in turn reminds paradise and God.
It is said that in 1492 the early Jews in Chefchaouen introduced the practice of painting walls in blue and between 1930 and 1940, the wave of Jewish immigrants escaping from the Nazi persecution, added more blue hues to the city.
Visiting the old city is very easy, we spent there the whole morning before leaving to Fes. We started from Outa-el-Hammam, the heart of the Medina, which is a square surrounded by cafes and restaurants and where you’ll find the Great Mosque and the old Kasbah.
The mosque features a particular octagonal minaret built in the 15th century by the son of the town’s founder, Ali Ben Rachid (only Muslim visitors can go inside the mosque), whereas the Kasbah, enclosed by high walls, boasts a beautiful garden, a museum and the prison cells used during Spanish rule. After that you can start your exploration through the narrow alleys with only one suggestion: walk and get lost! At every turn, at every inch, a photo opportunity awaits!
If you want to take a nice panoramic pic of the medina, ask the local to indicate you the way to the source of ”Ras al-Ma”. Here, it starts a path that leads to the old Spanish Mosque (situated on the top of the hill) from where you can have a beautiful view on the blue buildings and take a nice shot as well (walk for 5 minutes).
In case you decide to spend a couple of days here, we would like to suggest to try the hike to the Akchour waterfalls and Le Pont de Dieu (Bridge of God), located inside the Rif mountains.
Need to Know about Chefchaouen
1) When to go and how long
All year round but the best seasons are spring and autumn. We visited the city in December, and it was cold during the early morning and at night. The best way to visit is to have an overnight here and enjoy the wonderful Medina without rushing.
On our itinerary, we got to Chefchaouen from Meknes around 8 pm; we had an overnight here, then the next day we enjoyed the old city for 5/6 hrs before heading to Fes. If you decide to spend a couple of days there, check out the ”Bridge of God” hiking and Akchour waterfalls hiking.
2) How to get there
If you are travelling around on your own, the cheapest way is by bus. The bus station is situated on Mohammed V avenue; there are buses from/to Tangier, Fes and Meknes, and other major cities. Check here fare and timetables.
You can get there by taxi as well from Fes or Meknes, remember to haggle the price with the driver. You can also get there renting a car or renting a car with a driver. Check here for the private taxi service Tangiertaxi.
3) Where to eat
Inside the Medina, around Outa-el-Hammam square you’ll find many restaurants. The average price for a dinner is around 60 MAD (6$). We ate at the Marisco Restaurant. If you want to see the list of more restaurants in the city, click here.
4) Where to sleep
The Medina is plenty of affordable accommodations like Riad and guest houses (if you have heavy baggage keep in mind that inside the medina you go by walk). We slept at the Maison d’Hote Lalla Khadouj (Rue Sidi Ahmed El Ouafi, Sebanin 23 – 15$ per night), a very comfortable guest house (reachable by car) outside the Medina but an only 10-minute walk from Outa el Hammam square.
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