10 Key Things about Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen. The Blue City.

Cradled in the Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen is a city straight out of a kid’s picture book. This is the kind of city fairy tales are based on. With its winding streets, the plain blue houses with crafted brazen doors and the amazing setting, the Blue City is easily one of the most photogenic cities on Earth.

10 Key Things about Chefchaouen, Morroco

1. History of Chefchaouen

Mulay Ali Ben Rachid founded Chefchaouen as a small fortress in 1471 CE to serve as a base to retaliate and resist the growing Portuguese influences in the region. Nestled in the mountains, in a very hard to reach place, the city dominated the trade routes between Tetuan and Fez. The city grew from the trade and prospered upto the 17th century. It also saw an influx of immigrants from Spain (mostly sephardic and Moorish exiles). The Kasbah was built by Mulay Ali Ben Rachid and recovered by Mulay Ismail by the 1690s to defend the city.

10-Key-Things-about-Chefchaouen-Morocco-city-1024x682 10 Key Things about Chefchaouen, MoroccoThe city has thwarted off Portuguese, Berberes and Spaniard invasions.

Chefchaouen had been closed to foreigners until 1920, ie the beginning of the Spanish occupation. The very first travellers – a French explorer disguised as a rabbi, an English journalist and an American missionary – visited the city well before the 1920s.10-Key-Things-about-Chefchaouen-Morocco-Hamam-1024x768 10 Key Things about Chefchaouen, MoroccoIn the War of the Rif (1924-1926), Abd-el-Krim was able to take the city back but the Spaniards recaptured the city in 1926 and deported Abd-el-Krim to Réunion. Spain returned the city during the Moroccan independence in 1956.

2. Night Life of Chefchaouen

Nightlife in Chefchaouen is mostly restricted to hotels and their guests. Rooftop terraces are popular hangouts. Rooftop restaurants give you the opportunity of having delectable food in the midst of the blue sea.

Alcohol is not readily available in Chefchaouen, but it can be found. There is, but, ONE bar in the entirety of the city. It is called Bar Oum-Rabiá and is located on the Avenue Hassan II. It is a fairly masculine, but a nice place to grab a beer. The Atlas Chaouen is the only nightclub in the area and has a cool Jazz bar as well.

3. Safety in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is one of the safest places in Morocco. This deep in the mountains, violent crime is almost unheard of. To avoid the infrequent petty crimes, keep your bags in your control and keep your valuables safe. The city is safe to roam around in at any time of the day.

Marijuana is grown by the farmers in Chefchaouen at an industrial scale. It is so common that you might come across weed being sold in vegetable shops. Avoid buying hashish from locals who will insist that you “try it”. Hashish is still considered illegal in the city and you may get in trouble for smoking in public.

4. Living Expenses in Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is a small city. The cost of living is not as high as compared to metropolitan cities. The cost of buying a square meter of apartment space in the city can go as high as MAD 5,500 (USD 560) .

Accommodation in hotels can be tight in the peak season. Therefore, it is advised to book, or arrive early. There are a dozen cheap places to stay in the Medina. Many have rooftop terraces. On average, a budget hotel can cost you MAD 40 (USD 4). Hotel Koutoubia, Hotel Zerktouni, Hotel Aline and Harmony Hotel are some cheap, great places to spend the night.

There are no luxury hotels in Chefchaouen per se. WiFi in rooms not a prevalent culture. Upmarket hotels which can have tariffs up to MAD 350 (USD 35).

5. Cuisines of Chefchaouen

The Moroccan cuisine is influenced by the country’s interactions over the years. The cuisine is influenced by Mediterranean, Andalusian, Arabic and the Berber cuisine. The chief ingredients are the fruits used in the Mediterranean cuisine, some tropical ones, meats, an amazing amount of spices, herbs, lemon-pickle, olive oil and dried fruits. Common meats – beef, goat, mutton and lamb, camel, chicken and seafood – form the base of the cuisine.

This city will provide some amazing gastronomical bombardments for your tastebuds. The bread of the city are baked in a traditional wood-fired oven. Tajine, harira, baissara, kofte and tagras are Chefchaouen’s signature dishes. Tajine is named after the earthen pot it is cooked in and come in an amazing number of variations. Try out Casa Hassan’s Tissemlal Restaurant. The Square is the best place to find restaurants to eat in. The Pastry Ladies sell the best pastries in the Medina.

6. Statistics of Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen is spread over an area of 16.4 sq.km. The population stands at 42,786 with a density of 2,608 per sq.km.

7. Public Transport of Chefchaouen

Frequent buses from Fez, Tangier, Tetouan and Casablanca head to Chefchaouen. You can also take a taxi from Tangier to reach the city.

Public transport in the city is mostly restricted to the petit taxis that charge an abominably high fare. The city is small enough to comfortably (in most cases) traverse on foot.

Pollution in Chefchaouen: Chefchaouen’s location and tiny population ensure that the city’s air is not polluted and is incredibly pure and clean. Consequently, the city does not have pollution measuring stations.

8. Weather of Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen has a Mediterranean climate. Hot, sunny summers and cold, wet winters are the highlights of the year. The city witnesses an average annual precipitation of 450 mm. There is no snowfall as the temperature seldom goes below 5°C.

Summer: May to October. Average low: 18°C Average high: 27°C.
Winter: November to April. Average low: 9°C Average high: 15°C.

9. Culture of Chefchaouen

The culture in Chefchaouen is more religious than anything else. There are no live-gigs or modern art galleries in the picturesque city-town. The handicrafts sold here are unique to the Blue City. The city got its name inscribed in the Representative List of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010.

The city has three museums and one art gallery.

There are a number of festivals and moussems celebrated throughout the year. In these festivals, which are mostly religious, you will find the beautiful Sufi music, artistic performances, dances and cultural showcases. The Algeria Festival is very famous and is counted amongst the best in the country. Rif-el-Andalus festival, the International Chefchaouen Festival of Photography and the Sidi Allal el-Hadi moussem are also a great show.

10. Places to Visit in Chefchaouen

Things to do in Chefchaouen: Get lost, quite literally, in the Medina. As random and easy it is to get lost in the otherworldly blue streets of the Medina, you will find the way out as easily; Take a hike up to the Rif mountains; Visit Akchour and hike upto the Bridge of God; Visit the Ras el-Ma and Tissemlal springs;  Relax and unwind. Stay overnight in a riad and bathe in a Hammam; Eat in one of the cafes at Plaza Uta El-Hammam; Visit the Grande Mosque (non-Muslims cannot enter the mosque, but that does not stop you from looking at it from the outside); Go to the Kasbah, see the walled fortress and the Andalusian Gardens; Shop your heart out in the Medina; Slow down and enjoy.

Things to do for Kids in Chefchaouen: Chefchaouen is not a city with a lot of technology, so unless your kids love being around nature, they probably won’t have a great time here. For the little adventurers, this city is amazing. With treks, beautiful views of the mountains, springs and waterfalls, Chefchaouen is an utter delight; The kids will love the Medina and its winding streets; They will also love the Andalusian Gardens and the trek to the Bridge of God.

Museums and Galleries: There are three museums in the city: the Ethnographic Museum, Talassemtane Eco-Museum and the Old American Legation Museum. The Ethnographic Museum displays the ethnic art, culture and history of the city. There is a small art gallery within the Ethnographic Museum itself.

Places Nearby: The two-day hike to the Talasemtane National Park is a trek full of wonders. A lot of other treks start in Chefchaouen. Fez, Tangier, Casablanca and Tetouan are not very far away from the Blue City and can be reached within a day.

Offbeat: The hike to the Talesmtane National Park can be extended to reach Oued Laou – a small fishing island on the Mediterranean coast. It boasts some beautiful white sand beaches and no tourist interference. The hike over to Azilane is one not for novices, but it is absolutely surreal and far from the madding crowd.

Author’s Conclusion: Chefchaouen makes you    s  l  o  w    d   o   w   n   and appreciate the nature around you. The food is absolutely mouthwatering, the people are amazing, the nature is in bountiful. The Blue City scores more on the adventure and wonder side than it does in the party, nightlife and music side. Fairly religious, a bit backward yet progressive, Chefchaouen is the perfect getaway from the everyday life.

Country Morocco
City Chefchaouen
Area 16.4 sq.km.
Population 42,800 as of 2014
Demonym Agadiri
Languages Arabic, Spanish
Currency Moroccan Dirham (MAD) (1 USD = 9.82 MAD as of 24th February, 2016)
Time Zone Western European Time (UTC +0)
Western European Summer Time (UTC +1)
Driving Right Hand Drive, Left Hand Traffic
Helpline Police-19, Fire-15,  Highway Emergency-177

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