The Moroccan ‘blue’ city of Chefchaouen, often known as Chaouen, is one of the most scenic destinations in the country.
Situated in the Rif Mountains, it features one of Morocco’s most attractive medinas. But it’s best known for one thing in particular…
It’s blue da ba dee da ba di… (Sorry.)
Yep, the city is adorned with blue paint on the walls and doors of houses, restaurants and buildings – and it looks incredible!
Where did it start?
Chefchaouen’s history can be traced back to 1471, when a distant descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami, founded the city.
The original settlement comprised of just a small defensive fortress, built to help defend the sea from Portuguese invaders. Portugal had launched a military invasion of northern settlements in Morocco at the time, you see.
A settlement then grew outside the fortress following the construction of the medina, a traditional area of homes and amenities.
Then settlers from further afield began to appear. In 1920, Chefchaouen was captured by the Spanish as Spain established territory in Morocco.
Not long after, Jewish people fleeing occupation during the Second World War settled in the city before leaving years after the war to live in Israel. It wasn’t until 1956 that the city was given back, when Morocco gained independence.
Around the time the city gained its iconic blue appearance…
I guess that’s why they call it the blues
Situated two hours from Tangier and three hours from Fez, Chefchaouen is a total change where visitors can take a break from the tourism-heavy cities.
It’s the ideal location to enjoy the sunset from the rooftop of your riad or wander through the meandering blue-hued walls and doorways that define the city.
In a country known for its golden sands and greenery, the Blue City pierces through the landscape in gorgeous fashion, and there really is nothing like it.
Every corner presents a new subtle change to the shade of blue or a new pattern to enjoy, with the colours changing under dancing natural light.
Even in the rain, the bright blue hues create a lightness that makes everything feel bright.
So, even if you are feeling a bit blue, this is the perfect pick-me-up!
If you’re spending the day in Chefchaouen, finding the perfect spot for dinner is an absolute must-do. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy a delicious tagine and a spectacular sunset at the same time, and you’re unlikely to ever do in a more picturesque place.
Paint it blue
There are several different theories about why the Blue City came to be, originating from the time when Jewish people settled in Chefchaouen.
That theory goes that they blue-washed the walls in a nod to their strong cultural ties to the sky, heaven, God and faith.
There’s a strong tradition in Jewish communities of painting objects blue and using blue in clothing, fabric and prayer mats, to symbolise their faith, you see.
But there’s no real clear evidence that the walls weren’t blue before the first wave of Jewish immigrants arrived.
So who can really say for certain that the blue hues haven’t always been there?!
The theory of everything (else)
Another theory is that the blue walls help to keep homes cool during the warm summer months. That’s probably not why the tradition started, but it’s pretty handy benefit and it’s a factor as to why it still continues today!
The deep blue sea?
Keeping mosquitoes away is another reason that gets a few mentions. Apparently mosquitoes don’t like being in water, despite choosing to live near it.
People say that the flying insect could mistake the hues of the Blue City for flowing water – but we’ll let you make your own mind up about that one.
Others reckon that residents might have noticed fewer mosquitoes in the (allegedly) blue Jewish part of the city and followed suit.
The theory that the blue’s there because of water is one that appears more than once though, with some locals stating that the azure shades are simply there to represent the deep colours of the Mediterranean Sea.
She’s a waterfall
Others say the walls represent the Ras el-Maa Waterfall which provides the city with its drinking water, with the walls being painted blue as an ode to the life-sustaining flow of water.
In Islamic culture, the colour blue represents happiness and optimism, which could be a contributory factor, while some locals simply say the colour has a calming effect and attractive appearance.
You’re probably getting the picture now – no-one really knows.
Wherever the blue walls came from, it’s the strong sense of community that’s keeping the tradition going, which is pretty typical of Morocco really. And just another reason why we love this fabulous country so much.
How far is Chefchaouen form Marrakech?
It’s 355 miles or 571 km from Marrakech to Chefchaouen. Driving this will take you about 6.5 hours. There is also the option to use the train system from Marrakech to Chefchaouen.
Where is Chefchaouen located?
Chefchaouen is located in the Northwest of Morocco. It is the chief town town of the province which it shares its name. Chefchaouen is located just inland from Tangier and Tetouan.
If you would like to visit Morocco’s Blue City why not check out our Best of Morocco Trip where we visit Casablanca, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Merzouga and the Sahara Desert. As well as Todra Gorge, the high Atlas Mountains and finish up exploring Marrakech!
For an adventure holiday unlike any other, get in touch with us on 01769 309007.
If you need a bit more convincing, head over to our Instagram to see some of the stunning sights from our Moroccan trips and other destinations!