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Chefchaouen, or Chaouen, is a city in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco. It’s known for the striking, blue-washed buildings of its old town.

Chefchaouen is also known as the "blue pearl of Morocco". It is also a travel destination on my bucket list.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Traveling to Chefchaouen

We travelled to Morroco from Tarifa in Spain. The ferry crossing to Tangier takes about 40 minutes. Depending on when you arrive in Morocco you can either head straight to Chefchaouen, which is about a 2-hour drive, or since we arrived late evening, we stayed in Tangier overnight and made an early start in the morning.

Chefchaouen is up in the mountains and the surrounding landscape is amazing. Chefchaouen is a perfect place to wander and take photos. You can't get that lost.

Leather and weaving workshops line the steep cobbled lanes. In the shady main square of Place Outa el Hammam is the red-walled Kasbah, a 15th-century fortress and dungeon, and Chefchouen Ethnographic Museum. Be sure to venture into some of the shops. Although they look small from the outside, some of them can be quite large inside!

Most inhabitants speak mainly Spanish, French and Arabic. A few we spoke to also spoke very good English so we did not have any problems with communication.

Why is Chefchaouen painted blue?

Chefchouen was founded in 1471 however it didn't get its distinctive colour until around 1492 when Jews escaping the Spanish inquisition settled in the town. They brought with them their tradition of painting buildings blue. The colour mirrors the sky and reminds them of God.

Cats in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is certainly a cat town. There are cats in the alleyways, cats in the markets. Cats are found in restaurants and on terraces. They're in trees and bushes and stretched out on sidewalks.

Tip from a local: When trying to attract the attention of a cat, most tourists say "here kitty", or make a kissy-kiss sound. This doesn't work on Moroccan cats because that is not a noise they are accustomed to. Instead, to attract the attention of a Moroccan cat, try making a hissing sound. It works every time.

Photography

Chefchaouen is a very beautiful, albeit tourist town. Be mindful that you are photographing peoples homes and places of business. Chefchaouen is a rural community, and many of its inhabitants do not want to be photographed. Some, especially the older generations, believe that a photograph can steal their soul. Many will turn away or hide their faces, while some may get annoyed. If you wish to photograph somebody, respect their beliefs and politely ask permission first.

Hiking the Rif Mountains

If you're up for a short kike in the Rif mountains, be sure to check out the view from Mosquée Bouzâafar across the valley. From this viewpoint, you can get a spectacular view of Chefchaouen and the surrounding area.

There are also many trails into the mountains themselves which also offer amazing views.

Weather

Chefchaouen is up in the mountains. In the winter it gets cold, in the summer it gets very hot. We were there in July and temperatures exceeded 30°C. August is hotter. If you visit in March, be sure to bring warm clothing, sweaters, etc, as well as wet weather gear.

Chefchaouen

A Flickr album by Tim Trott (77 photos)

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