“At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding.”
We arrived the day before in Chefchaouen, having driven from Asilah, along windy mountain roads, however it was not the roads that caused the problems, but the wind that literally blew the car across lanes it was so strong.
A new blue sight awaits up every staircase, around each corner and through each archway.
Car parking is a premium in Chefchaouen and you have to park outside the medina, most of the hotels and riads are inside, so it was a bit of an uphill hike with our bags and laptops to reach the riad, add to that, google maps kept directing us to the wrong place. Nevertheless, the riad has turned out to be nice and comfortable and in typical Moroccan style.
Reaching our Riad involved walking through a maze of vendors selling their wares and wandering through the never ending twists and turns of streets.
Chefchaouen was settled in 1471 by Mulay Ali Ben Rachid and is nestled at the foot of the Rif Mountains. In 1492, after Spain was taken from the Moors by the Christians, it resulted in expulsion of the Jews who fled to Morocco and established their own area in Chefchaouen. Some believe it was the Jewish settlers who brought with them their tradition of painting buildings blue. As the Jewish believed that blue was the colour of the sky and divinity and so reminded them of the presence of god. However, others believe the city is painted blue to repel insects and mosquitoes, similar to what is done in India’s blue city, Jodphur. So why the city is blue is open to interpretation.
Is it blue because of the Jewish influence or to deter flies and mosquitoes
Foreigners, especially Christians were forbidden from entering the city with the threat of death, until 1920 during the Spanish occupation. Rumour our has it that the city was so isolated from foreigners that they were speaking a 15th century version of Spanish.
The exodus of Jewish families to Israel followed WWII, however the painting of the city blue continued by the Moroccan Berbers. Today the government supplies both the blue paint and the brushes to keep the tradition alive. A local guy I spoke to said they repaint the buildings about every 3 months, because apparently the paint wears off with the rain. Another artist told me that the crushed indigo powder is mixed with water to make the paint.
The crushed blue indigo powder is mixed with water to paint the houses and floors.
Chefchaouen is filled with very narrow, mainly pedestrian roads that are cobbled. Most of the houses are painted either fully or partially blue as are the doors, many of which are also decorated. The overall effect is a beautiful city where surprises await around every corner, whether its a vendor selling baskets, rugs or other trinkets or some beautiful archway leading elsewhere. There are many stores selling different sweets, like cookies, chocolates various mini-slices, I think we have managed to try everything over the past couple of days from one ladies little shop.
Just a few of the beautiful doors throughout the city
Chefchaouen is a lovely place to spend a day or two to explore the city.