The town of Chefchaouen is the most charming in Morocco. In fact, it is one of the most charming destinations on any Imprint tour. Snugged up against the rugged Rif mountain range in the northeast of the country, the blue-washed village is a place to both explore and relax. The medina, or old town, is a labyrinth of winding narrow stairs, tiny artisan shops, ornate doors, and picturesque lanes which sweep down a hillside to converge on Plaza Uta el-Hammam.
Near the square are the photo-worthy adobe walls of the restored Kasbah (fortress). Andalusian influences are apparent in the red-tiled roofs, small balconies, and courtyard patios. Wandering the lanes puts one in mind of the white-washed villages of the Greek Cyclades, except for the universal blue. It is said the color blue is both cool and soothing – that is the perfect description of Chefchaouen.
On our recent Morocco tour we had a meandering walking tour, starting at the top of the town where the tiny Ras el-Maa river plunges down a tiny defile and then through the town. We learned from our guide about the town’s history and some of the local handicrafts on offer. We were told the blue color was believed to repel mosquitoes. Also, blue is a sacred color for Jews (many of whom arrived in 1492 from Spain). Perhaps more interesting, the reach of the bluewash is typically just above the door heights.
The reason is quite pragmatic: the job was traditionally done by the town’s women and they tended not to be tall. The town was founded in the late 15th century as a Berber outpost. But the Jewish and Muslim exodus from Andalusia (expelled by Ferdinand and Isabella) put its Andalusian stamp on the town.
We took loads of photos. Every turn, corner, side street, and shop called out to be recorded. It was a cold November morning, but the sun came out by midday and most of our group settled into one of the charming sidewalk cafes on the main square for a leisurely lunch. Many spent the afternoon shopping the many varied souks around the square and among the many alleys of the Medina.
Others relaxed with a Nosnos, the Moroccan version of a cappuccino, in the bright sunshine. Still others opted to recharge their batteries on the balconies and terraces of our charming hotel (it seems Chefchaouen’s charm affects everything) with its lovely views over the town. Chefchaouen may not have the notoriety of Fes or Merrakesh, but it was certainly a favorite on this tour.