Chefchaouen – Blue Moroccan Magic

Chefchaouen-blue-moroccan-magicIf Morocco were a royal, Chefchaouen would be the sapphire in its crown. A blue-washed village, nestled high in the Atlas Mountains, this more peaceful side of Morocco is not to be missed.

A far cry from the chaotic hassles of Marrakesh and Fez, Chefchaouen is quirky, serene and stunningly beautiful. Walking through the entrance to the medina you would be forgiven for believing you were stepping into another world. With a breathtaking view around every corner, it’s a photographers dream.

Despite its reputation amongst backpackers as the center of the marijuana plantation regions – we saw little evidence of this – don’t let it deter you from visiting this beautiful village.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

THE HISTORY OF THE BLUE

The blue washed buildings of Chefchaouen are the calling card of this Moroccan jewel and the reason for it’s distinct colouring is rooted in history and religion. Jewish history teaches that by dyeing threads with an ancient, natural dye called ‘tekhelel’ and weaving it into prayer shawls the people will be reminded of God’s great power and influence.

The colour of tekhelel is honoured through the blue buildings of Chefchaouen which are repainted regularly to ensure their vibrancy.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

GETTING THERE

Getting to Chefchaouen is simple. Buses depart daily from Fes, Tangiers, Casablanca, Meknes, Cueta and Tatouen.

This will be so much more than just a bus journey. Be prepared to have your backpack thrown on the roof, share your seat with a goat and hold your breath around some precariously sharp bends – our bus driver fancied himself as a bit of a Hamilton.

The bus will drop you at the main bus station – Gare Routière – which is a grueling 15 minute uphill walk from the medina. Having the aversion to exercise that I do, I would advocate avoiding this at all costs – especially after a draining bus journey with a backpack. There will be a couple of petit taxis waiting at the entrance – hop in one of these, ask for the medina and ensure you don’t pay more than Dh 10.

WARNING  – Be prepared to dodge the many touts who will try tirelessly to lead you to a low-quality hostel of their choosing. Here, you will almost certainly be charged more for your room to cover the tout’s commission. They can be forceful in their tactics, so ensure you are firm but fair in your response and make your own way. We were made to feel uneasy soon after we arrived by a tout who would not leave us be – luckily our general experience of Chefchaouen was so brilliant this did little to taint it.

(As a side note… although this was my experience in Chefchaouen, I have visited other places were the touts actually end up adding value to your trip. They may take you to some hidden jewel of a place that you wouldn’t have found otherwise… it’s the luck of the draw. Go with your gut on this one!)

Chefchaouen, Morocco

CHEFCHAOUEN: ANOTHER WORLD

When we walked into Chefchaouen, the sun had set and the moonshine was bouncing off the blue washed walls, casting an eerie glow along the streets. It was like stepping out onto an unknown planet.

We ambled around the streets for a while, taking in the silence – it felt as though we were the only foreigners walking without permission in a forbidden land. We saw no one for a good half hour. Then my heart stopped.

As we turned a corner, a figure walked towards me, head tilted and face shadowed by a dark pointed hood. The body’s eyes caught mine as it passed, peacefully before disappearing down a side road. It was a dreamworld.

Chefchaouen by moonlight

WHERE TO STAY

It wasn’t long before we spotted a ‘Guest House’ sign above one of the many blue washed doors. We knocked on the door, expecting no answer, but just moments later, a small woman with a big smile opened up and invited us in. On this occasion it really was worth having a look around ourselves for a place to stay, we stumbled across a belter of a place to stay.

If taking a chance isn’t your thing, have a little gander at options online before you arrive – you won’t be short of choice.

In Chefchaouen you can find a place to lay your head for as little as £5 per night. Most hostels feature large internal courtyards and roof terraces – the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing cup of mint tea.

If you’re after something a little different, head over to AirBnB where you can find places to rent for short periods of time in and around Chefchaouen – have a gander.

WHAT TO DO

If you are at all interested in photography – you’re sorted. Just step outside onto the cobbled streets with your camera in hand and you’ll be in your element for hours. It is the perfect place to walk around, peruse the spice stalls, sample the food and take in the culture.

If you’re after something a little more active and challenging, there are plenty of treks and hikes around the surrounding area that may take your fancy. Have a little look here.

THE LINGO

Spanish is the foreign language mostly spoken by the population, while French is the language of higher education.

THE MINT TEA

Mint Tea in chefchaouen

The mint tea everywhere in Morocco is delicious – but it was in Chefchaouen that I sampled the best yet. Far from friendly to your waist line and full of sugar, it’s the perfect beverage to refresh you in the Moroccan sun.

THE FOOD

Chefchaouen Spices

You can’t turn a corner in Chefchaouen without your senses being assaulted. The tantalising spices and aromatic herbs are impossible to ignore and your taste buds won’t know what’s hit them. From delicious freshly baked bread (baked in an authentic wood-fired oven) to the traditional tagine – this town has it all.

Don’t leave Chefchaouen without tasting their signature tagine. A tagine is a traditional Moroccan style dish served over couscous that can be made with fish, meat, vegetables alongside fresh vegetables and an array of aromatic spices – don’t miss out!

(‘Tagine’ is named after the dish it is cooked in. I of course nabbed up one of these traditional pots and have been trying out my own tangines at home ever since – stay tuned for some recipes!)

DON’T MISS IT

Chefchaouen was a truly special place to visit. A lover of travel, I thrive off discovering places that are that little bit off the beaten track, places that feel magical, different and encase you in culture the moment you arrive. Don’t miss this Moroccan treat!

Chefchaouen

  • http://featherytravels.com Katie Featherstone

    Chefchaouen is so beautiful- I’d love to go back one day. I actually did come across a Cannabis farm while I was there, but the farmer was really friendly! I was actually just writing about it myself. Thanks for the post it brought back good memories.

    • theglobewanderers

      It’s an amazing place isn’t it! Pleased our post brought back good memories :). I’d love to go back also… especially now i’m more into my photography. The perfect place to get snap happy! Oh you’ll have to let us know when you finish your post, would love to have a read :).

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