Chefchaouen, Morocco | Our Love Affair With Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen Morocco blue alley

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Morocco’s most beautiful town

Falling in love with Chefchaouen’s mesmerizing blue alleys was an immediate love affair for us.  Its charm had cast a spell and we had even decided to extend our stay by one night in Morocco’s most beautiful town. After a lazy breakfast on the sunny roof terrace of Dar Zambra, our lovely riad, we gazed across the rooftops of the blue pearl, watching the commotions on the local’s terraces. Women hung their colourful washing, kids played, while other rooftops served as a chicken pen or additional storage room.

The Mosque Bouzafar

In the distance, under the ragged mountaintops we noticed the night before the mosque Bouzaafar, a popular spot to watch the sun set over the Rif Mountain range. Instead of joining the crowds in the evening we had planned a hike to the mosque, hoping to savour the views over the town and the mountains by day.  Our wanders took us through the blue lanes, some of them we had explored after our arrival the previous day, towards the east gate of Chefchaouen’s medina.

The Ras El Ma

Many of the souk’s shops were only just setting out their wares, the day trippers had not yet arrived in Chefchaouen. Passing over the Ras El Ma, a narrow mountain stream, we could already watch some local women washing clothes in the freezing water at the washhouse. This sight that had always intrigued me, the tedious chore that is possibly extinct in Europe and other countries is still a common task, almost no one can afford or has the ability to have a washing machine in their humble abodes.

Prime Sunset Spot

Shortly after crossing the stream, a narrow track took us up into the hills that surround Chefchaouen. Walking past orchards, we soon crossed another bridge and reached the Bouzaafar mosque. Peeking through the windows into the building we noticed that it must have been unused for quite sometime, dust and rubbish collecting on the bare floors. Turning around towards the town we sat down on a low wall to gaze at the impressive panorama, no wonder people would flock up to this spot in the evening to get a prime view of the sunset!

Panoramic Views of Chefchaouen

The town appeared less blue from the distance, many of the buildings are only painted in the enchanting blue hue on the lower floors. The towers of the mosques stood out between the houses like pointed fingers at the sky. We were surprised by the sheer number of mosques visible in Chefchaouen and Jerome started to count them. Below our dangling feet we could see a sea of graves in the cemetery. I would have loved to take a stroll among the graves. Cemeteries of other countries have always fascinated me, but sadly not the boys.

Local Food Market

Next we were headed for the opposite end of the medina, where on Mondays a local food market is held. Farmers from the nearby villages come to Chefchaouen to sell their homegrown goods. A vast array of fruit and vegetables were offered, but also a few animals like chickens and fragrant spices. Jerome had soon had enough of the hustle and bustle and we turned back into the calmer lanes of the medina.

Lunch at Cafe Clock

Our grumbling tummies told us were in need of some food. Café Clock, a small restaurant hidden away in the maze of alleyways seemed like the perfect spot for lunch. It’s sunny and inviting rooftop was an oasis of calm and the food, was a delicious concoction of traditional and modern cuisine try the camel burger and mezze perhaps. We prolonged our break with hot mint tea and fresh squeezed juices, savouring the winter sun.

Visiting the Ancient Kasbah

Chefchaouen does not really offer any major sights like Marrakesh or Fez and the ancient Kasbah is possibly the only structure worth visiting. It is found bordering onto the busy Plaza Outa el Hammam, aptly named after the numerous hammams surrounding the square. Most of these offer an authentic experience but now mostly to tourists.  The oldest and largest mosque also sits in the town’s ancient Kasbah. The Kasbah dates back to 1471, the building now largely a ruin with shady gardens, is perfect to escape the busy square.

Exploring the Kasbah

After paying a small entrance fee we climbed the imposing tower, each floor displayed a few photos of the kasbah’s history, but only in Arabic and French.  Underneath the tower lies a dark, cold cavernous cell where handcuffs are still chained to the wall and where prisoners must have led a sad imprisonment. Back in the bright winter sunshine we took a short stroll through the lush garden, shaded by tall palm trees and surrounded by the crenellated walls, reminiscent of castle walls. A little museum tucked away in the Kasbah showed some interesting facts about the signature Moroccan tiles. Overall the Kasbah was not as impressive as others we had seen previously in Tifoultoute and Agdz but is a good spot to wander through on a tour of the town.

Dinner at Mr Bin Restaurant

Following our visit to the Kasbah we slowly returned to Dar Zambra, where we spent the rest of the afternoon on the roof terrace playing cards. After watching the sun set behind the Rif Mountains, the cool immediately turned chilly. For dinner we changed the standard Moroccan fare for the tiny Mr Bin Chinese eatery, run by a friendly owner, serving a small number of Chinese dishes. The beef brisket was delicious and the spicy soup a warming welcome on cool winter’s eve.

A Great Destination All Year Round!

Chefchaouen had certainly taken us in and it is easily understandable that such a remote town attracts hordes of visitors. We were glad to have stayed during a time without too many crowds although I could imagine that anyone who tries to get away from the main square, into the higher alleys of the medina, should find quiet corners and picture perfect moments all year round.

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