Even before I arrived in Morocco, I tried to find out as much information as possible of the individual cities that we were supposed to visit according to the program. I was particularly looking forward to Chefchaouen based on photos and articles on the Internet.
How to get to Chefchaouen?
What to do, see and visit in Chefchaouen?
Chefchaouen is known for the blue facades of its houses that squat beneath the wooded hills of the Rif Mountains. Apart from a walk in the old town (medina), the city doesn’t offer much.
Bab El Mahrouk gate
We started the tour north of the medina, from where we could take pictures of part of the city. Unfortunately, it was not the typical view from which you have a blue city in the desert like in the palm of your hand. I mention the more famous one at the end of the article. We entered the medina through the gate (Bab El Mahrouk; 550 m/11 minutes walk north of Place Outa El Hamam). Immediately after entering, we understood why Chefchaouen has the epithet blue city. They painted (almost) all the facades of the houses blue. Despite how popular the city is among visitors, here and there I managed to find an empty street.
Chefchaouen is not located by the sea like the other cities we visited. Therefore, high temperatures prevailed here in the afternoon as well. The narrow streets provided shelter from the scorching sun and the air flowed faster in them.
Bab El Onsar Gate and Ral Elma Park
From the northeast, you can reach the medina through another gate (Bab El Onsar; 500 m/7 minutes walk northeast of Place Outa El Hamam). This gate was also built in the 16th century. It was really busy around the gate. Some tried on Moroccan costumes, in which they were then photographed, artists sold their works here, visitors flocked from all sides. From this gate, it is also the closest to the photogenic Ras Elma park (650 m/9 minutes walk northeast of Place Outa El Hamam). Here, the waterfall springs from under the building that stands above it.
Locals were not as willing to pose here as in other Moroccan cities. Some even asked for small change for the photo.
The water of the Fouara stream gradually flows down the narrow valley below until it passes through the so-called the local laundry, a place where householders wash clothes and carpets since time immemorial. At every turn there were stalls with souvenirs and others where they prepared fresh orange juice for you. The blue city on the hill is indeed so photogenic that visitors want to take pictures in every alleyway on every single step. It can feel a bit annoying at times when you are moving from one place to another.
Place Outa El Hamam
The center of the medina is Place Outa El Hamam. In the center of the square there is a fountain with a small pond. Dominating the southern part of the buildings are the fortress (Kasbah), which houses the Ethnographic Museum (Musée Ethnographique de Chefchaouen) and the Grand Mosque (Grand Mosquée), from which the prayer was carried throughout the square. We also ended our city tour in the square with a cup of hot mint tea.
Kasbah and Grand Mosque
The fortress from the 15th century functioned as a prison, today it hosts a small art gallery. Go up to the observation deck of the Portuguese Tower, from which you can see the medina and the surrounding hills. Explanations in the tower are in Arabic, French and Spanish. The ticket costs 60 mad/6 euros/person. The Grand Mosque, like other mosques, is closed to non-Muslims.
La Plaza de sidi Belhassen square
If you enter the alley between the mosque and the fortress, you will find yourself in La Plaza de sidi Belhassen. The square became famous for the wool market. It was an annual market for animal sacrifice until the late 1960s.
Place El Haouta
Only 300 m/5 minutes walk northwest of Place Outa El Hamam is another smaller square, Place El Haouta. Although you won’t find any significant attractions in the square, according to the photos on the Internet, it looks very picturesque.
Bab El Sor and Bab El Ain gates
When leaving the medina, we passed through 2 more gates – Bab El Sor (120 m/1 minute walk west of Place Outa El Hamam) and Bab El Ain (280 m/3 minutes walk west of Place Outa El Hamam). At the second gate, stop for a delicious ice cream.
The mosque (1.3 km/21 minutes walk southeast of Place Outa El Hamam) was built by the Spanish in the 1920s. Although it never served its original purpose, it offers one of the best views of Chefchaouen. All those illustrative photos of the city that you can find on the Internet come from this location.
In conclusion …
I regret that we did not visit several interesting sites in the city of Chefchaouen. The guide more or less „dragged“ us up and down the alleys, as if he didn’t know where he wanted to go.
Opposite the public toilets stands the shop of a Moroccan. I couldn’t believe my eyes, how casually and naturally he told us about the square that is adjacent to his store, about its history and the buildings that stand on it. I just thought to myself: „It’s a shame that this gentleman didn’t accompany us through the city.“ Then the tour would have looked completely different.
The article was created in cooperation with FIJET and FIJET Slovakia.
© Ing. Adam Vanečko