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The Mystery of the Blue City in Morocco, Chefchaouen

When you visit Chefchaouen, Morocco one thing becomes very apparent. From the blue buildings, blue roofs, blue walls, blue stairs, narrow blue streets, and even blue flower pots…. this city is completely blue.  Chefchaouen, or Chaouen, is located in Northern Morocco and is known as the Blue Pearl of Morocco because of exactly this - it’s many shades of blue, from the narrow streets to the many blue buildings.

Why is everything here blue?

I asked some some local people living in Chefchaouen why the city is blue, and this is what they told me. Some people say the blue is to symbolize the sky (or heaven), others say it is for mosquito repellent, others say it is to keep them cool, to represent the color of water, to look nice, to attract tourists. None of these explanations helped me understand why this city was blue. Why is the famous blue town in Morocco, blue? To find the answer you have to turn to history.

Chefchaouen, or chaouen, was built in the 15th century (early 1400s), but it wasn’t until the the 1900s that it was painted blue. During that time Morocco saw a large influx of Jews as the Second World War started. For the Jews, the color blue represents the sky, which reminded people of heaven and God. There is a strong tradition among Jewish communities of painting things blue. Nowadays the community continues to keep up the blue color of the city to preserve the legacy and heritage of its people and its past.

No matter if this is the right answer or not, as you explore the world you are going to encounter things that you don’t completely understand or things that seem strange.  But if you stop to ask yourself why, then you may uncover a local secret…. such as why an entire city is painted blue!

You can visit Chefchaouen from any of the major cities in Morocco. Taking a trip from Tangier to Chefchaouen is the most common and shortest route, roughly a two hour ride through the beautiful Rif Mountains.  You can also visit Chefchaouen from the major cities of Fez, Casablanca, or Marrakech, with it being the following distances respectively: a 3-4 hour drive trip from Fez to Chefchaouen, a 5-6 hour trip from Casablanca to Chefchaouen, and and 6-8 hour trip from Marrakech to Chefchaouen.  

No matter how you visit, making the trip to Chefchaouen is well worth it, and for the next time you have the opportunity to visit, here are 5 of my top highlights that you can’t miss:

  1. Exploring the narrow streets and alleyways of the blue town

  2. Finding a restaurant and try a local dish (I recommend Tagine or Couscous)

  3. Taking a day trip to visit the beautiful Akchour Waterfalls and God's Bridge

  4. Staying in a local Riad and enjoy the delicious mint tea

  5. Visiting one of the many artisan shops to purchase a textile, some spices, or local crafts to take home with you

Now that you are ready to visit Morocco, and in particular the Blue City of Chefchaouen, here are some of my favorite small group tours that will take you to see the Blue City!