We’ve all just rung in the New Year, and one of two things has happened: you’ve either made some grand travelutions, or your precious vacation time has just reset. Whichever is the case, I have some rather persuasive information and photographic evidence that may sway you in the general direction of Africa- bizarre, exotic, mysterious, colorful Morocco, to be exact.
The majority of people that visit the country make a beeline for Marrakech. I can understand why- it’s relatively westernized, tourist-friendly, full of culture, and absolutely stunning. I was headed along the same track, until somewhere, floating around the social media realm, photos of an incredible blue city called Chefchaouen surfaced. With staggered blue-washed buildings, a maze of narrow streets, and sprawling mountain views, it caught my eye and jumped straight to the top of my must-see list. With a loosely planned 8-day trip ahead, and a starting point in Tangier and an ending point in Marrakech, it was conveniently on the way.
I've never been happier to be a photography enthusiast, as it’s one of the most photogenic places I’ve ever seen. I could have wandered through the old medina’s maze of blue for days on end with my camera. Chefchaouen is a relatively simple place with a complex character, so if you’re content with charm, relaxation, and a bit of cultural immersion, it’s a great place to hang out for a couple of days. It is also the setting for some of my all-time favorite photos, so I highly recommend it for any photographers that make it to Morocco.
So, what makes Chefchaouen stand out from other destinations?
I’ve compiled a list of its 5 most memorable features.
1. Intriguing Doors
There are billions of doors in the world, but none quite like those in Chefchaouen. You’ll be zigzagging through narrow alleys and wandering up and down stairs surrounded by some of the most mysterious doors you’ve ever seen. For some reason, you can’t really fathom what might be behind them (until you can, because a random Moroccan who speaks fluent English and apparently owns a bizarre amount of Chefchouen property chats you up on the street and gives you the opportunity to have a peek.) But that's a story for another day. The medina walls appear to seamlessly flow together, with no obvious separation of space- just doors sprinkled along the walls. Once inside, however, you discover that interior walls do in fact divide them, and that they are typically many stories high, with beautiful open-air rooftops. With the staggered layout, no one gets a bad view. Here is just a sample of my favorite entryways to mysterious little homes and who knows what else that populate this magical place.
*The green anomaly was the door to a beautiful mosque outside of the medina walls*
2. A Sea of Blue
There’s something inexplicably appealing about a world of blue. This single color can be found in a variety of hues and dominates the old medina. Set against a backdrop of the Rif Mountains, the colorful landscapes perfectly contrast the blue-washed walls and natural tones of the cobblestone streets.
Everyone loves a good sunset, and with mountain viewpoints to climb and open-air rooftops to chill on, Chefchouen ensures unobstructed views of the sky. If you exit the medina walls and head east towards the waterfall, Ras el Maa, you’ll find a pathway leading up the mountain to the right. There are several great viewpoints along this route for taking in the sunset and admiring the city from above. Otherwise, grab a seat on a rooftop like I did when I took the photos below, and keep a camera handy.
4. Vibrant Colors
So I know we’ve already talked about the color blue. It’s everywhere, and it’s the perfect background for the splashes of color that you’ll find around the city. For example, bags of rainbow powders, used as paint when mixed with water, or beautiful rugs, which pesky vendors push on you every chance they get. “I don’t have the luggage space or a home, otherwise I’d be all over those things!” And seriously, I would; they're gorgeous. So it may be “the blue pearl”, but some of the most stunning scenes are the ones that incorporate the lesser colors. You know, the ones that didn’t get the privilege of painting an entire city.
5. Kiddies and Kitties
I’ll be honest- those of the older generation didn’t seem particularly keen on having tourists galavanting around. I got an earful on more than one occasion for taking photos (the locals don't want to be in photos, even if they are a small part of a general scene) and a few unpleasant looks for no apparent reason at all. But don’t be discouraged; tourism is fairly new in Chefchaouen and I can imagine tourists can feel intrusive considering the traditional small town lives the older folks have been used to for decades. The children were friendly enough, however, and as you’ll see in the photo below, were thrilled to interact with foreigners and have a chance to play with a camera.
In addition to cute kids, there are even cuter kitties. You might not be fond of cats, and this may well be your ideal of hell, but for me, the stray cats I encounter along my travels usually make my day. I love animals, and these guys are just desperate for some TLC. They also become the subject of many a photo.
Questions about Chefchaouen? Feel free to comment below!