Chefchaouen, Morocco

The Blue Pearl of Chefchaouen, or simply Chaouen as the Moroccans call it, is an almost 100% collection of all sorts of clichés that writers, filmmakers and travel agents endow Arab cities with. An ancient medina with a labyrinth of narrow streets? Please. Picturesque spurs of the mountains, against which the contours of the ancient Kasbah fortress are drawn? Available. Piercing blue-painted houses with tiled roofs and brick thresholds? In stock. Authentic restaurants with delicious tagines, colorful markets and colorful street cafes? As much as you want. Add to this a reasonable balance of tourist convenience and Arabic authenticity, and you have a portrait of one of the most wonderful cities in Morocco before you.

The only “bad” fame of Chefchaouen is the abundance of soft drugs that are offered everywhere to tourists. It should be remembered that the use of any drugs in the kingdom is strictly punished. Yes, and the product is likely to be of poor quality. Check jibin123 for customs regulations and visa requirements of Morocco.

How to get to Chefchaouen

The city closest to Chefchaouen is Tetouan, from where buses, minibuses “gran taxis” and regular taxis depart regularly. Travel time is 1 hour, the trip will cost about 35 MAD. You can also arrive in Chefchaouen by bus or minibus from Tangier in about 3 hours, paying 45-50 MAD. When departing from Fez or Rabat, the journey will take about 4-4.5 hours, the fare is from 75 to 100 MAD. The farthest direction is Casablanca: at least 6 hours on the road and minus 140-150 MAD in your wallet.

The nearest airport to Chefchaouen is in Tangier. If you do not want to waste time and are ready to part with 650-700 MAD, you can hire a minibus to Chefchaouen right at the exit from the arrivals hall. If you want to save money, we recommend getting from the airport to Tangier, and already in the city, take a transport to Tetouan, where you can change trains to Chefchaouen.

A bit of history

Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 by a native of Andalusia, the Moorish prince Mouley Ali Alami. On the site of the Berber village, he built a bastion to repel the naval attacks of the Portuguese. In 1492, a large number of Muslims and Jews expelled from Spain arrived here – they gave the city its unique Arab-Moorish appearance. Due to the fact that for 400 years Chefchaouen was closed to visits by non-Christians, the medieval architectural ensemble has been completely preserved here. The first Christian visited the city only at the end of the 19th century. – and then under the guise of a traveling rabbi.

It is believed that it was the Jews who were the first to paint the walls of houses in blue: for them it was associated with God, who never leaves the exiles, sitting in heaven. Today, this tradition is maintained for the sake of numerous tourists.

Throughout its history, Chefchaouen has constantly received new waves of exiles – and today Berbers and Muslims, Moors, Jews and Spaniards coexist peacefully here. This gives the city its unique atmosphere of tolerance, cultural and ethnic diversity.

How to navigate in the city

The center of the modern city is Mohammed V Square, next to which there are parking lots for minibuses and taxis. The city market is also located nearby. From the square along Hassan II Avenue in 10 minutes you can climb to the old city – the medina. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the medina from the bus station, in which case it may be wiser to take a taxi.

It is almost impossible to get lost in the city: on one side there are two mountain peaks – Tisuka and Megu, on the other, valleys stretch to the very coast. By the way, the name of the city, translated from Berber, literally means “look at the two horns.”

Transport

Chefchaouen is a small town, its quarters are located quite compactly around the city center – the old medina. You can explore the main places of tourist interest on foot. However, it should be borne in mind that most of the city’s streets have a noticeable rise. This is especially felt when walking up to the Kasbah fortress.

In addition, you can travel around Chefchaouen by ordinary taxis – they are called “petit taxis” to distinguish them from the minibuses “grand taxis”. There is no counter in them, the cost must be negotiated upon boarding: for example, a trip within the city will cost about 10 MAD. Taxi ranks are located on Makhzen Square and near the city market, but you can just stop the free “checkers” on the street.

Following the unified color scheme of Chefchaouen, city taxis are painted blue.

Hotels

Despite the seeming diminutiveness, Chefchaouen offers travelers a lot of accommodation options, mostly budget – from guest houses and family pensions to mountain camp sites and private mansions-“riads” in the medina. The high tourist season lasts from July to September – during this period it is worth booking accommodation in advance. However, you should not neglect the reservation at any time of the year. Prices for the most budget options start from 70 MAD per person, for convenience and comfort you will have to pay from 150 to 200 MAD. And for twice the amount you can sit like a king in the room of an old mansion in the medina.

Cuisine and restaurants in Chefchaouen

The main delicacy of Chefchaouen, which, according to locals, has no equal in all of Morocco, is goat cheese. Animals cheerfully jump along the mountain steeps and briskly nibble on fresh grass, which has the most favorable effect on milk, and therefore on cheese. Cheese is best bought in dairy shops in the city market.

For a quick bite to eat while walking around Chefchaouen, sandwiches can be made from half a baguette or homemade flatbread stuffed with almost everything: chicken, beef, shrimp, fresh vegetables and a variety of sauces. This simple meal will cost 25-30 MAD. A great option for a hearty lunch is a thick tomato harira soup, tagine (meat or fish stew) or couscous and green tea with mint – all together at a price of 45-50 MAD. Separately, you can drink a glass of mint tea for 15 MAD.

Shopping and shops

Souvenir shops in Chefchaouen offer the traveler a standard Moroccan assortment: leather, carpets, embossing, ceramics, national clothes and spices. The climate here is mountainous, and therefore, anywhere you can buy winter clothes made of wool with a hood – djellaba – for about 300 MAD. Sleeveless cotton summer version will cost 150-180 MAD.

Entertainment and attractions of Chefchaouen

The main attraction of Chefchaouen is its incredible medina, definitely the most beautiful in Morocco and one of the most colorful in the entire Arab world. Almost everything here is painted in different shades of blue – from rich indigo to a subtle blue note in the whiteness of the plastered walls. Each house has its own door, different in shape and decoration from the neighboring ones, a threshold lined with decorative bricks or ceramic tiles and one or more clay or copper medallions that protect its inhabitants from evil spirits.

The heart of the medina is a cozy shady Uta el-Hammam square, paved with paving stones, with an abundance of cafes, fast foods and souvenir shops. On one side of the square, the ocher-red walls of the Kasbah fortress rise – it was she who once protected the inhabitants of Chefchaouen from the Portuguese conquerors. Passing through the massive gate, the visitor finds himself in a small garden, on the right side of which there is an ethnographic museum, on the left – an art gallery. You should definitely climb the fortress wall to enjoy a breathtaking view of the quarters of the Old Town. Opposite the Kasbah on Uta el-Hammam Square is the Great Mosque (14th century), notable for its octagonal minaret. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed inside.

The spring, also known as the waterfall, called Ras el Ma, is a popular meeting place for locals who collect drinking water in canisters, wash clothes and “ventilate” carpets, or simply hang out in the lively cafe next door.

Of the abundance of mosques in Chefchaouen, the most noteworthy is the Spanish one, built, as the name suggests, by the Spaniards in the 1920s, but never used for its intended purpose. The minaret offers a wonderful view of the surroundings – you can climb it, since the mosque is not working.

Talasemtan National Park begins almost from the borders of the old city. Its territory includes two mountain peaks with slopes covered with coniferous and deciduous forests, ravines and canyons, mountain plateaus, valleys and reservoirs. Oaks, spruces, pines and pines, wild olive trees and various shrubs grow here, eagles and endemic reef macaques live here. There are many hiking trails in the national park lasting from several hours to 2-3 days. You will be told about the possibilities of active recreation in the visitor center, combined with the eco-museum.

5 things to do in Chefchaouen:

  1. Get lost in the labyrinth of ultramarine, blue, azure and blue streets of the medina.
  2. Go hiking to the canyons and waterfalls of the Talasemtan National Park.
  3. Taste the best goat cheese in all of Morocco.
  4. Admire the view of the city from the fortress wall of the Kasbah.
  5. Dress up in a purchased woolen djellaba and defy any cold.

Chefchaouen, Morocco