It’s been several months since my trip to Morocco with Intrepid Travel, and in flipping through my pictures, I’ve realized some of the destinations have fused to become one in my mind. I can’t quite recall – was it in Fez or Marrakech where I saw that amazing leather bag in the medina? Where did we eat that camel burger? Did we even go to Rabat or did I imagine that stop?
I never have a problem remembering the specifics of Chefchaouen though. It’s a city with a look and feel all its own, and its distinctive vibe has stuck with me all these months.
Friendly and pleasant, Chefchaouen (chef – sh – ow – en) is an attractive introduction to the Morocco outside the hustle and bustle of Casablanca, Fez, Rabat and Marrakech. It’s a city of 40,000, but it feels intimate and manageable inside the medina’s maze.
Inland from Tangier and Tetouan and situated in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a photographer’s dream. It was founded in 1471 as a fortress to protect against Portuguese invasions. Of course those in power switched back and forth numerous times, so today’s Chefchaouen is a mix of Arabic, French and Spanish influences.
Today, you’ll hear more “hola” than “bonjour,” a contrast to many of the other cities we visited on our Morocco Experience.
So what makes Chefchaouen so memorable?
Painted blue by Jewish refugees in the 1930s, Chefchaouen must be the bluest city in the whole world. A sapphire city, if ever there was one.
Windows and doors are rinsed in every shade of aqua, azure, cerulean, indigo and periwinkle.
I suspect if 10 people visited & photographed Chefchaouen, you’d probably see different doors in each set of pictures.
Chefchaouen’s medina is really the main attraction for visitors to Chefchaouen. While it is busy during the day, it should be noted that it’s a much less hectic place to shop and wander than the medinas in Fez, Marrakech, etc. Prices are probably more negotiable in the larger cities, but Chefchaouen is just so much more pleasant overall.
And shop you must! If you’re a good haggler, you may find yourself loaded down with carpets, leather, wool, spices and jewelry.
Snapping hundreds of pictures will likely seduce you into losing a sense of time and place, but don’t forget to stop for some mint tea or nos-nos (half milk/half coffee), a tajine and some harira for lunch.
If you’re planning a trip to Morocco, don’t skip Chefchaouen. It’s altogether worth the trek. The people are lovely, the photos come out strikingly colorful and the handicrafts wooed even this non-shopper.