Have you ever walked in the deep end of an empty swimming pool? Or been inside an ice cave? Or imagine what a surfer must feel like inside the curl of a giant blue wave. This is the best way I can come up with to describe walking around the bright blue city of Chefchaouen
It’s mesmerizing, a bit blinding yet enchanting. And weirdly makes me think about Smurfs.
And for a photographer – a dream come true.
We heard several different stories about when this town came to be blue (dubbed locally as the blue pearl). Most likely it was in the 1930’s when Jews fleeing from Nazi-persecution adopted blue as a heavenly reminder to live a spiritual existence. Prior to this it was painted the more traditional Muslim green. Today, for whatever reason, the blinding blue has made the old Medina (founded in the 1400’s) unique. In addition to the blue, Chefchaouen is nestled into the green Rif Mountains and the contrast is lovely. In fact the name Chefchaouen means “look at the peaks”.
Tours come here, but frequently just for a day. Staying for a few days really gives you time to see the little town in the early morning or after dark without a lot of visitors. Although unlike Fez or Marrakech, Chefchaouen never feels overly crowded.
As a photographer, my favorite thing to do is to get lost. And here it is very easy to do. The labyrinth of alleys, each one vividly blue, white, periwinkle and occasionally terra-cotta orange, are a colorful maze. Wandering both day and night presents great photo opportunities, unexpected vistas, as well as encounters with locals who, kindly, redirect you when you suddenly find yourself at a deadend.
As you wander, you will enjoy plenty of opportunity to shop for Moroccan treasures of every color and kind. You will go up and down stairs and paths and stumble into delicious restaurants, some with views and others tucked neatly into the hillside.
Finding alcohol though will prove to be difficult in this Muslim village. Cats however, are everywhere. Some of the fancier hotel restaurants serve alcohol.
Visiting the spectacular and recently restored kasbah ($1 admission) is highly recommended. It’s small but a climb up the tower provides a perfect birds eye view and a great photo perch.
Also a climb up to the recently restored city walls and to the Spanish Mosque about a mile and a half from town provide the more intrepid visitor a spectacular vantage of the mountains and the blue pearl below.
We have only seen two places so far in Morocco, but I know without a doubt that Chefchaouen will be one of my favorite memories of Morocco. So if you come to Morocco don’t miss the beautiful blue pearl, where you will find yourself taking more photos than you can ever know what to do with.
And maybe thinking about Smurfs.