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Shiny Blue Chefchaouen

This Moroccan jewel is the kind of place one discovers during their travel plans almost by accident but once discovered, it is hard to leave and harder to forget.

I first heard about Chefchaouen in the bustling city of Tetuan a local taxi driver had convinced me that it was right.

Situated high in the Rif Mountains, this charming city was founded in 1471,initially built as a small fortress ( which exists to this day) to ward off the Portuguese invaders who were intent on dominating northern 1920,the Spanish armies seized Chefchaouen and held it until 1956 when Morocco finally gained independence. The influence of the times gone by is still reflected in chefchaouen.

The architecture today,for instance,is a heady mix of Moorish design flavored with the more ornate Spanish influence.

Legend has is that Chefchaouen derived its name from the surrounding Rif range that resembles two chaouen or goat’s horns.The city lies between the “horns’ hence the name.

The unique blue walls of the buildings here are what make Chefchaouen a draw-card for most travelers.There are many theories about the color. Some say that the blue symbolize the sky and heaven. Serving as a reminder for one to lead a spiritual life . Another theory although not so profound is that the blue tinge keeps mosquitoes away A local also told me that the color of the houses was the result of a pact between the Arabs (white) and the Jews dark blue). Whatever the reason, all of the buildings in the city are painted the these vibrant hues twice a year, making for a beautiful palette, offset as they are by Andalusian red terracotta roof tiles.

A maze of twisting alleyways and ting lanes weave their way through

Chefchaouen under ornate arches, festooned with gorgeous purple and pink bougainvillea, and lined with tempting.

Shops and restaurants.The midday air is oungent with the smell of mint tea, kif (a major cash crop) tagines and coriander that wafts from a surprising number of ….coffee here.

In many ways,this is a sleepy little town where no one appears to be in a hurry.

Noticed local workers sitting languidly against the blue walls,smoking and chatting with their fellow residents, as a conspicuously large population of furry cats iay curled up all around, asleep in my sunny spot they could find.

Even the central Medina, unlike the Medinas of the larger cities such as Marrakech or Fez is a rather relaxed affair, allowing shoppers to browse at leisure without being pressured to purchase.

There is a dazzling array of goods on offer beautiful crafted rugs, elaborate pewter teapots and lanterns, straw hafts, brass candlesticks and more.

The town square plaza Uta el Hammam was another one of my favorite places to spend time in this a shady oasis to stop by for lunch or a small cup of mint is also perfect spot to simply watch the locals and travelers pass by, or just stare in wonder at the central mosque that dominates the space.Women clad in brigthtly colored Berber dresses, scuttle across the square , delivering bread, while gangs of young boys play football, oblivious to the tide of human traffic surrounding them.

The town, square is also where the local trekking guides ply their trade.

You are sure to be asked to take a trip to the limestone rocks at Sfiha Telj and Ain Tissimlane spring. These excursions are actually well worth it,for,it is not often that one gets to trek to the majestic Rif mountains.The walks are all easy and offer spectacular views, also taking you through carpets of wildflowers and groves of ancient cedar trees. The excursions are tailor made and come in a wide variety of options, from simple day outings to for the more adventurous, a two or three day camping option. Another attraction is the Kef Toghobeit caves nearby.It is one of the deepest caves in Africa and great for a half day excursion.

The thing I loved the most about Chefchaouen is its charming people. Maybe it’s the altitude or the clear, cobalt blue skies there is something that makes the city a joyous place to be in and its people a cheery bunch that loves to interact with visitors. So, sitting in the square, don’t be surprised if you are approached by locals offering to take you to a friend’s restaurant, or show you around or even take you shopping more often than not they know the best places and are extremely hospitable.

Of all the cities I visited in Morocco Chefchaouen was the place that truly captured my heart, its slow pace stunning architecture natural beauty and of course the wonderful people will make you want to stay a little longer every single time.

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