Chefchaouen, Morocco: Blue City of the Hills

In Morocco, the city of Chefchaouen is located 40 miles (60 KM) south of Tetouan. Chefchaouen has a history of Spanish-influence and is located in the heart of the Rif Mountains, where surrounding trees, hills, springs, and wildflowers attract tourists looking for a calm getaway. Just a few hours away from Tangier, or the Imperial cities of Rabat, Meknes, and Fez, Chefchaouen offers the nature lover rows of hills perfect for hiking and outdoor activities.

In this Moroccan town, dubbed “the Blue City”, the Berber mountain people of Morocco have a lot to offer tourists. Their hand-woven earth-tone blankets, rugs, and even lamp shades are seen displayed at the small shops within the city’s medina walls. They will welcome you in, ask you to look around, and even offer you some mint tea without hassling you to buy.

Also, dotted throughout the medina, you’ll find wood workers who are so engrossed in their craft, they might not look up from what they are doing until they hear the muezzin calling all the faithful to prayer as the sun is setting.

Chefchaouen is also the center of hashish production. So, be aware that touts and false-guides (called Faux-Guides, in French), will offer to sell you some or take you on a promenade to show you where it is grown. Even though you will see locals puffing away in public, it’s best for foreigners visiting Morocco to avoid such solicitations since you may end up getting arrested and serving an unwanted jail sentence.

‘Chaouen’ as it is known to local Moroccans, is a great place to explore one of the country’s most interesting, yet small medinas. You can take a walk along the main avenue, Hassan II and enter into the Medina through Bab l’Ain. In the springtime, in the Nouvelle Ville, you can sit in the Place Mohammed V Park and enjoy the view of the mountains in the background. The old city, called Place Uta el Hammam, is a photographer’s delight, and one of the few places in Morocco that has an octagonal minaret next to the Grand Mosque.

In the 1600s, Moulay Ismail built Chefchaouen as an Arab fortress. In the centuries that followed, Chaouen saw itself transformed from a Spanish prison to what it is today.

If you visit the museum, in the Kasbah, you can see the collections and artifacts that bring the diverse history of Morocco to life. One of the main attractions of this region is the unique style of clothing worn by the Berbers. You will notice most of the men wearing thick, earth-tone djellabas made of wool as they stroll through the blue and whitewashed walls of the medina. These gowns keep the men warm during the long winters they experience in the high altitudes of the Moroccan mountains. On the other hand, the women will be seen wearing colorful straw hats, and a red-and-white-striped cloth tied around their waist that looks like a skirt.

So, as you hike among the Rif’s lower knolls, be sure to admire the backdrop of the city as you discover the warmth and friendliness of the village people in Morocco.