Morocco's Blue Pearl: Chefchaouen
Have you ever been to a country where there is a pink city and blue city? A place where everything from the buildings to taxis to road signs are either pink or blue?
Well, nestled in a very remote part of Morocco at the foothill of the Atlas Mountains is El Kelaâ M’Gouna, the pink city [aka Valley of Roses]. EVERYTHING is pink and there is a festival of the rose harvest that happens annually in April /May. Regrettably, I did not get enough time in the valley, but keep reading because I’m here to tell you all about the cobble stone streets, quaint houses and dreamy hues of the blue city, Chefchaouen.
My tour to Chefchaouen was arranged before I got to Morocco. I booked a day trip online with Viator Tours for about $53 USD. The group tour started in Fes and though I was the first one to board the van, I knew other people would join in. With eight girls in the mini van, we were well on our way to The Blue City.
Chefchaouen [pronounced // chef-shaw-when] is a small province situated in northwest Morocco, about two hours or less from Tangier and four hours from Fes. The little town commonly know as the “The Blue City” was founded in 1471 by the Moors and Sephardi Jews who fled Spain. The city is nestled in the heart of the Rif Mountains with a population of just over forty-thousand.
So…who decided to paint the town blue and what does it even mean? According to my guide it was painted blue to prevent mosquitoes, others say it was painted blue to signify the Mediterranean sea, and the real spiritual folks said it was painted blue to symbolize the heavens so as to remind the Jews to lead a spiritual life. Which is true? The world may never know.
As I was perusing through the narrow, sometimes maze-like and steeply cobbled lanes of the walled city I was often confused about which way to turn. But it did not matter, because whether left or right, every door, every stairway, every flower and every flower pot looked like something from a 15th century fairy tale; carefully curated, except it really wasn’t. These were the homes of real people, living real lives. Some of the homes are rented to visitors who spend a few days. Other homes are so neatly decorated their owners may even charge you about 5 dirhams if you want to take a photo.
Though I was surprised by how small the Medina is, I loved everything about the city. My favorite moment was while waiting for my Tajine [the best I’ve had], the waiter and I started singing a song by Adele together. Chefchaouen feels like what I imagine heaven to look like, but the western pop music played in most stores and restaurants will bring you right back to earth and reality.
I mentioned blue a lot, and from the look of things, there is a whole lot of blue within the walled city, but surpriseeee… not every building is blue! If you step outside the medina, you will find a lovely mini waterfall; Ras el-Maa and a few trails where you can go hiking.
Well, as you can see, I drank blue kool-aid and believed the hype about this city! The Blue City attracts thousands of visitors every year, for the most part you’ll learn about this unique city and get all your instagram worthy photos here since every nook and cranny is beautiful.
For the least part, people visit because they can “smoke weed and fly off the Rif” aka cannabis is legal. Heads up, locals may likely approach you to ask whether you’re interested in buying sensimania. I hope you’ll say no. HA!