Chefchaouen – Historical Fortress Town
Chefchaouen was first founded in 1492 by Spanish exiles and it is the main town in the province of Chefchaouen. The town is situated in the northwest of Morocco near the Rif Mountains and is inland from Tetouan and Tangier.
Chefchaouen is a small fortress town that has become a popular destination for tourists. Visitors come here to explore the town’s historical aspects and because it is near to the Spanish border and Tangier. The town is easily recognizable by its unique blue-rinsed buildings and houses. This tradition was started by Chefchaouen’s former Jewish population and has been carried on down to this day.
Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami and the exiles used the fortress of Chefchaouen to fight off the invading Portuguese who were entering Morocco from the north. After the Spanish Reconquista, which took place in medieval times, hundreds of Jews and Moriscos headed to Chefchaouen with the goal of taking refuge there. In 1920 Chefchaouen was taken over by the Spanish and became part of Spanish Morocco. In 1926 the Spanish troops and the French army defeated Abd el-Krim and imprisoned him in the Kasbah. Spain ruled over Chefchaouen for thirty years before handing the town back to Morocco.
The local residents often refer to the town as Chaouen, because of the shape of the mountains that surround Chefchaouen. It is said that the mountaintops resemble the horns of a goat or ‘chaoua’, as it is known in Morocco. The literal meaning of Chefchaouen is ‘look at the horns’.
The town of Chefchaouen is well known for a number of products that are made locally. Many of these hand made crafts are found nowhere else in Morocco. This makes the town a popular shopping destination for Moroccans and tourists alike. People come to buy woven blankets and woolen garments in an assortment of colors as well as exceptional goat cheese. Chefchaouen’s land can produce very little agriculturally and is not of very good quality. Due to this, the town has grown a reputation for producing a number of illegal drugs. Chefchaouen is one of the main producers of marijuana, cannabis and Hashish which are used mainly by the local Chaouenis.
Despite this, Chefchaouen is a historical town with much to offer to tourists and is well worth a visit.