The blue city of Morocco. Chefchaouen
LOCATION. HOW TO GET THERE
Chefchaouen, the blue city of Morocco is located in the north of the country. 60km from Tetouan and 100 from Tangier. There is no airport in Chefchaouen, so you will have to fly to Tangier, Fez or Rabat and get to the blue city from there.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM TANGIER
Tangier airport about 120 km away is the closest to Chefchaouen. From there there are several options to get to Chaouen:
1. Take a private taxi. This is the most convenient way to get from Tangier to Chefchaouen for those who value comfort and do not look how much they spend on it. Traveling with a private company as it is the preferred option for most travelers. It is more expensive than taking a large public taxi, but the difference is not significant and is usually worth it if you want to get to Chefchaouen with as little stress as possible.
2. Take a large public taxi: A public taxi is slightly cheaper than taking a private taxi. If you are going to choose this way, be sure to inform the prices at the time you are going to make the trip. Ten in mind that the state of Moroccan taxis in general is not very good and that in many cases it takes up to 5 passengers.
3. Take the bus This is the cheapest option, it is also the least comfortable. You can buy your bus tickets from Tangier to Chefchaouen through the CTM bus company.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM FEZ
1. One day excursion. The most comfortable way if you do not want to complicate life, hire an excursion to go from Fez to Chefchaouen with a driver who speaks Spanish. The driver will pick you up at the door of your accommodation in Fez. The drive takes about 3 hours. You will have about 4 hours of free time in Chefchaouen. It may seem little, but it is more than enough to get to know its beautiful blue streets and stop at a corner because the town is very small. It is more expensive than other options, but it gives you a lot of peace of mind and sale on account if you are a group. good option if you usually get dizzy in the car. You can also choose to hire a group excursion.
2. Grand private taxi or shared taxi. One option to hire a one-way trip is to go by grand taxi. The price of the shared taxi will be around 20 euros per passenger. 3. CTM bus, the cheapest option to go from Fez to Chefchaouen The CTM buses are the safest to go from Fez to Chefchaouen. The ticket will cost you around 75 dirhams. The approximate duration of the trip to go from Fez to Chefchaouen is 4 hours with a stop to rest. You can catch the bus at the Gare Routière Principal, near the Bab Boujloud gate. They also leave from the CTM station in Fez, which is about 5 kilometers from the medina.
Chaouen. The blue city of Morocco
HISTORY OF CHAOUEN
Chefchaouen was founded in 1471 by Moulay Ali Ben Rachid. In its early days when the Ceuta Portuguese tried to take over the country’s north coast, a place like Chaouen, hidden by the mountains and supplied by a river, was thought to be suitable for fortifying and launching attacks on the Portuguese. It was thus established as a fortress city to protect the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Located in an inaccessible enclave, it dominated the trade route between Fez and Tetouan and served as a base to stop the flow and influence of the Portuguese in Ceuta. This extraordinary location, protected and hidden by the mountains in a fertile valley with many springs flowing from the mountain and the guaranteed water supply in case of siege, was not by chance.
During the XV and XVII centuries, the city flourished and grew considerably with the arrival of the Moorish and Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain. Its original population was mainly composed of exiles from al-Andalus, Muslims and Jews. For centuries the Moroccan blue town was closed to foreigners and was considered sacred in the days when it was occupied by the Spanish. Even today, the Andalusian neighborhood is one of the most populated in the medina. Famous for its isolation and especially for its anti-Christian religious fanaticism, which is not at all strange considering the origin of most of its population. The small Sephardic Jewish community, which had inhabited the city since its inception, lived in Chaouen in much more hostile and precarious conditions than in the rest of the Moroccan cities, living practically confined in their neighborhood exposed to harassment and constant attack if they dared to leave Mellah. This isolation was a small parenthesis that would end the occupation of the city by the Spanish colonial troops, who settled there in 1920. Between 1924 and 1926, during the Rif War, Abd- El KChefchaouen Arim managed to expel the Spanish, but These soon occupied Chefchaouen again in September 1926 as part of Spanish Morocco, but returned to the city after Morocco’s independence in 1956.
TOURISM IN THE BLUE VILLAGE
The great mosque
The Chefchaouen Grand Mosque was built in the 15th century by order of Moulay Mohamed Ben Ali Ben Rachid, son of the city’s founder. It features an octagonal minaret, which is somewhat unusual compared to the many square minarets that generally tower over the nation’s myriad mosques. The shape was influenced by Andalusian styles, brought to the country by Muslims from Spain. Constructed of stone, shades of brown and beige are juxtaposed against nearby blue and white buildings. Admiring the mosque is one of the best things to do in the city. They note that non-Muslim visitors cannot enter the mosque.
The Alcazaba (Kasbah) is located inside Outa el Hamman Square, right next to the Grand Mosque. It was built by Muley Ismail in the late 17th century. This imposing walled fortress, protected by solid reddish walls, has a keep and a large landscaped courtyard with trees. In the basement of the Tower are the old prison cells where Abd el Krim was imprisoned in 1926.
Nowadays, the Alcazaba houses the ethnographic museum where an important collection of folk art can be seen, as well as weapons, musical instruments, rugs, tapestries and photos. If you travel to Chaouen with the intention of visiting the kasbah, you must bear in mind that it is not open continuously, as only one person is in charge of allowing the passage (10 dirhams per person) and the meals and prayers make him absent in certain times of the day; the schedule is indicated on the door, so if you arrive early you can always wait for tea in the plaza.
Bouzafar viewpoint and Spanish Mosque
Located two kilometers from the Chefchoauen medina, the Ras el Maa spring, is the starting point to get there, through a climb on a path of about 15-20 minutes, the Spanish mosque stands on a hill at 702m altitude. The evocative ruins overlook the city and it is an excellent vantage point to admire the surroundings. The whitewashed mosque was built in the 1920s by the Spanish. However, it failed to attract the local faithful, and ultimately fell into disrepair. Restoration work was carried out later. Like a malfunctioning mosque, all visitors can take a look inside. The Bouzafar viewpoint was later refurbished to restore the Jemaa Bouzafar mosque, built during the Spanish protectorate, in order to rehabilitate it in a tourist area. The strategic location of this mosque on one of the hills, allows not only a memorable view of the medina, but also the Chefchaouen mountains. During the climb you can see a magnificent panoramic view of the city.
Chaouen Spanish Mosque Ras el Maa waterfalls
Leaving the medina through the easternmost gate (Bab el Onsar), we will access the large river (Oued el Kebir) and we will be able to contemplate the Ras el Maa spring that gushes out of the mountainside in such cold water and crystalline that the locals say that “drinking it breaks your teeth”. To see this beautiful landscape you have to ascend to the highest point of the city, right next to one of the seven gates of Chefchaouen, and there we can find the Ras el Maa waterfalls, a spring that supplies the city with drinking water. It is a very picturesque place that is worth visiting. On the banks of the waterfall there is a small terrace where you can sit down to have a drink and admire the beauty of the waterfalls. The sound of the water and the fascinating hills beyond the medina provide a moment of peace and tranquility surrounded by nature. The Ras el Maa spring, in addition to supplying drinking water to Chefchaouen, serves the village women every morning, as they come to wash clothes in the laundry room located next to the waterfalls. In good weather you can see people taking a bath.
Spanish mosque Chefchaouen