If you are looking for a place to get away from it all in Morocco you can do no better than finding your way to Chefchaouen. This small town up in the Rif Mountains is just the place to recharge your batteries before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Morocco’s cities.
Just 3 hours from Tangier it seems like another world. Although it is now becoming more popular with tourists, Chefchaouen still has that innocent feel about it. There aren’t many hustlers in this small town and most of the time you can wander around freely. Yes of course there will still be one or two who fall in beside you chatting away and then ask for money when you reach your destination but they are the few, unlike in Marrakesh.
The best way to see Chefchaouen is just to set out to get lost. Walk uphill and then down following the various paths and you will soon find out that it is impossible to get lost. There are a few mini Plazas scattered around and when you come across one, look for the tea shop, sit down and just watch life pass by. You will find that you become invisible the longer you sit there. You will see the same people running their errands, bringing the dishes to be washed at the central water point, or just selling their wares.
As you walk the streets you will see children playing hop scotch, boys kicking a ball around, girls running to and fro with the family’s dough on boards carrying it to the local communal oven for baking, while all around you are submerged in blue coloured walls,doorways and paths. There are even streets that it is impossible to distinguish between building and sky !!!!
A Brief History
Chefchaouen is pronounced “Chef-cha-wen and comes from the Arabic for “two horns ” which refer tto the two peaks that overlook the town. There is an ancient tale that tells how Chefchaouen came to have the shades of blue it is now known for. In the 18th Century the Jewish population of the town was forced by the Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdullah to move into their own neighbourhood called a Mellah. It is the area south and west of the Place de Hammam and down to Bab Ain. Here they rebuilt their lives and to distinguish their neighbourhood from the Muslim ones they added a blue dye into the whitewash of their houses. Over time the Muslim population began also to adopt the blue whitewash colour on their houses which continues to this day.