The Blue City of Morocco - a World Bathed in Blue!
It all started when I got a new phone and on the wallpaper was an entirely blue town. If you know me personally, you would know that I have an absurdly long travel bucket list.
So, the moment I saw that picture, I was determined to find out where this town was and add it to the top of my list. Seen only in pictures, I was mesmerized by Chefchaouen or the ‘blue pearl of Morocco’, and I knew I had to visit this hidden gem of Morocco to see for myself if the place was really as fascinating in real life as it was in all those pictures.
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Well, curiosity got the better of me and I found myself in the blue city of Morocco on my next vacation.
I’d be lying if I said that I did not fall in love with the city the second I set foot there. I was captivated by the enchanting blue that was everywhere! I didn’t know where to look first because I just had to take it all in at once.
It reminded me somewhat of Santorini, which is one of my go-to places for a peaceful holiday retreat, and that is why I felt relaxed almost instantly. The city called to me, inviting me to explore it and experience all the blue that I ever could in my life. I expected a lot of blue huts but I was in for a surprise. To my absolute amazement, the cars, taxis, doors, street stalls and even most of the furniture was also blue! It is safe to say that by the end of the day I would not have been surprised if a very blue smurf was to pop out from behind a blue wall!
Why is Chefchaouen Blue?
Let’s first delve into the history of this enthralling little town in the northwest of Morocco before we talk more about my experience of immersing in all and everything blue.
Founded as a point of defense against the Portuguese by the Jews and Moors who had fled Spain in the late 1400s, Chefchaouen is a small city in the Rif Mountains of Morocco. The refuge seeking Jews during World War 2 built European style whitewashed houses with courtyards adorning citrus trees, giving the city a touch of their previous home.
And this city, I cannot stress enough on this, is blue in its entirety which makes it so unreal and dreamy. While doing my research and talking to the natives, I came across a handful of theories as to why this town, and everything in it, is painted blue. Myth has it that the blue was symbolic of the sky and a reminder of the existence of God for the immigrant Sephardic Jew community seeking refuge in this small city, which encouraged them to paint it blue. Another version of the story involving the Jews suggests that the ones from Europe who fled Hitler’s tyranny painted the town blue.
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However, my most favorite version of the explanation is simple and reasonable telling us that it is painted blue only to keep mosquitos away and minimize the risk of malaria. Anyhow, it was definitely a good decision because it is one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. In modern-day Chechaouen, natives still keep this tradition alive by freshening the walls with different nuances of blue paint, preserving the distinctive vibe of the blue city in Morocco.
Shopping in Chefchaouen
A common trait of most travelers is their inclination to learn as much as they can about the culture of their destination. Fortunately enough, Morocco is bursting at the seams with cultural rarity and richness. Chefchaouen makes an amazing shopping destination, offering native handicrafts that are not available anywhere else in Morocco like woven blankets and sweaters.
Another interesting thing I learned was that Chefchaouen is one of the main producers of cannabis in the region, so great news for all of you hippies out there looking for some pure kief in Morocco! You can buy traditional Moroccan rugs, shawls, and dresses as a part of the blue city to bring home with you. Right by the big mosque in the old city is a food market where you can find the best fresh juice in all of Morocco!
Things to Do in Chefchaouen
Hidden in the hills, this small town provides an experience of a lifetime just by the being so strikingly beautiful. There are no particular tourist destinations in the city because the whole city itself is like a perfect imaginary town from a fairytale surrounded by blue like a castle in the clouds. Well, at least the landscape from the city up north and all the hues of blue sure create the vibe of a perfect little world in the sky.
Since it is so high up in the mountains, the journey to reach this splendid dream town takes long enough for one to believe that they are traveling to a whole new world, which seems true once they set their eyes on all the beautiful sights of Chefchaouen. The sloping alleys and the confusing blue maze that makes up the architecture of the city proves a challenging stroll.
The plants and flowers adorning the walls of the houses and the vibrant red and yellow spots on the steps are a refreshing burst of color amidst all the aquatic aura of the area. Tiny local shops, airy rooftops and the cozy street bistros give the city its homey feel, making you comfortable immediately.
Chefchaouen, given that it is on the highlands of Morocco, is cold even in March. The inner alleyways with countless turns and doors and of course all the icy blue almost gives an impression of the insides of an igloo, the temperature of the area playing along. My absolute favorite part of the city has to be all the cats that roam the streets like they own them. They can act as polar bears of this make-believe Antarctic world to keep the act up.
However, we need not make this place a make-believe anything because it is special and oh so breathtaking on its own. Despite all the amazing sights to see, the entire Morocco blue city looks like a single block of one neighborhood and as I mentioned before that it’s a maze, you can trust yourself to get lost. I did! But I did not mind getting lost in such an extraordinary place. Due to the height of the region, the maps don’t work but you can always follow the dots to find your way back.
Hotels in Chefchaouen
Even the hotels in the blue pearl of Morocco are nothing less than stunning. Spilling at the edges with uniqueness is the exotic architecture and designing of the buildings. Wooden doors with Arabic art in all imaginable shades of blue, an arching cave-like bathroom, a typical Moroccan carpet, a tiny fireplace and a soft endless bed with a blanket so fancy that it would be fit for a king, all combining to form the perfect match of indigenous yet comfortably accommodating room providing an unforgettable Moroccan experience.
Looking up from the rooftop, you see a clear blue sky and looking down there is a matching ocean of blue houses and alleys as far as the eye can see. The only thing not blue on this entire weekend was my mood because you can trust the blue city in Morocco to trigger anything but a bad mood from you. The place lifts your mood up and your entire world along with it, making you forget about your worries and the life at home, enabling you to press pause for a while and just breathe in the refreshing air and take in the calming blue.
If you are athletic and sporty, the region offers an opportunity to trek on to the hills and mountains of Chefchaouen, providing a consummate view of the blue city from the top. And if you are super lucky to find this dream town on a sunny day you will have the perfect post-vacation tan to sport along with all the stunning photographs of the blue city.
Visiting the all blue city in Morocco has been easily one of the most treasured trips that I have taken. The calm and quiet of the village, the peace away from the hustle bustle of the city and a very blue experience all add up to make an ideal cocktail of relaxation and fun! I am still unable to pin down whether the blue city reminds me of the excitement of the ocean with specs of white like crashing beach waves or the stillness of the sky on a bright blue afternoon, however, what I am sure of is that whichever of the nature’s wonders it may resemble, it is tranquil and beautiful like the purity of water.