Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of the Rif
Its Berber name is “accawen”, the horns, referring to the forms of Mount Kelaa and Mount Meggou at the foot of which rises Chefchaouen at 600 meters above sea level.
Reaching Chefchaouen is absolutely magical. The city is discovered once crossed the last bends of the tortuous road of the Rif which leads there. Then appear the white and blue houses of his medina hung on the sides of the mountain.
Chefchaouen has become a tourist destination in the north of Morocco, with its narrow streets and houses presenting a vast blue shade (against mosquitoes) and the number of tourists is almost equal to that of the local population.
Behind the mosque near the source Ras El-Ma, a path climbs up to the Talassemtane Natural Park located a few kilometers away.
While cannabis cultivation in the Rif is traditional and many Moroccans use it to smoke kif, consumption and trade are nevertheless prohibited and heavily suppressed. So be careful…
Chaouen’s medina, which is less animated than most of the old Moroccan cities, is not very large either. Between the blue of the houses, no corporatist souk or stalls overloaded with traditional spices or pastries, nor big market.
Uta el Hamam Square is the nerve centre of the city, bordered by cafés and restaurants. Until the 1970s, it housed the souk of the city, the Berber mountain dwellers and merchants who settled there, feasting the pigeons with the remains of their food. They were so numerous to be attracted there that the birds gave their name instead.
Near the alley which climbs towards the kasbah, a double door in carved wood shelters a foundouk, a caravanserai, always used by the rifains mountaineers on souk days.
In the eastern part of the medina is the small market of Makhzen. A place renowned for its ceramic exhibitions.
Located on Uta el Hamam Square next to the large El-Aadam mosque, the Kasbah was built, like the rest of the small rifan city, in the second half of the 15th century to protect it from Christian incursions at a time when Ibn Rachid had called for a holy war against them.
In addition to the mosque, the kasbah includes a number of houses protected by an imposing crenellated tower and high walls. Inside we discover the garden of the old prison.
Inside the kasbah is the ethnographic museum of Chefchaouen. Interesting despite the few exhibits. Nevertheless, weaving looms, potteries, pictures of traditional costumes, weapons and powdered pears, and furniture trace the history and customs of the region. On the first floor there are many photographs of the Spanish protectorate era.
El-Masjid El-Aadam, the Great Mosque
Contiguous to the Kasbah and dating from the same period, the Great Mosque, El-Masjid El-Aadam, with its octagonal minaret, one of the few in Morocco in this form, has always played an important social and spiritual role for the city.
It was responsible not only for being a place of prayer, but also for teaching the humanities and Islamic sciences.
Hosting some sixty students from all over the kingdom. It is also in its walls that the Ulemas carried allegiance to the Alawite rulers and that the dahirs of the sultans were read. < p>
Place Chari el-Khattabi Avenue is located on the avenue Chari el-Khattabi, going down behind the Post Office, the souk square, becomes on Monday and Thursday morning the meeting place for craftsmen from Chaounis and Berber mountain dwellers.
There is a wide selection of spices, rolls of fabric such as fouta, a striped piece of fabric worn by women who wear their skirts, djellabas with pointed hoods and of course many manufactured articles.
Muhammad Square V
Circular square situated between the medina and the market square houses a garden dotted with ceramic and wrought iron benches. In the centre is a fountain in which bronze frogs spit water. Numerous cash dispensers are scattered in the vicinity.
History of Chefchaouen
Retroceded to Morocco in 1956 by the Spaniards who had occupied it since 1920, the city was founded in the fifteenth century by Ali Ibn Rachid al-Alami on the return of a warrior expedition to the Muslim kingdom of Grenada.
Serving as a base for Ibn Rachid in his war against the Portuguese invader, the city welcomed a considerable number of Muslim families fleeing Al Andalus after the fall of Granada in 1492. These refugees brought with them their way of life and their artistic, musical and architectural culture, and participated strongly in its development.
Only Charles de Foucauld, then dressed as a Muslim pilgrim, managed to visit it in 1883 by spending a night there. It is only life, richness and freshness,”he said.
Chaouen is endowed with an important religious heritage composed of 20 mosques, including its Great Mosque El-Aadam, 11 zaouïas and 17 mausoleums, which earned it the name of El-Madina Es-Saliha, the Holy City.
By road, Chefchaouen is 115 km from Tangier and 67 km from Tetouan by the N 2. Fez and Meknes are connected to Chefchaouen by the N13 with just over 200 km.
Bus station. Avenue Maghreb Arabe. Outside, it is located a few hundred meters from Mohammed V square, on the opposite side of the city from the medina.
Many daily connections: 3 or 4 per day for Tangier via Tetouan, 7 for Fez in both directions, 2 for Nador and Al Hoceima, 3 for Meknes. Every hour for Tetouan, especially in the afternoon. Large collective taxis seem better for this destination.
The station of the large taxis is located next to Mohammed V square at the corner of Avenue de Fez.
Talassemtane National Park
With an area of 580 km2, the Talassemtane Park, with its rugged relief, is one of the most original ecological features of the Western Rif.
Still isolated and not very frequented, it stands out for the diversity of its landscapes: majestic cliffs, gorges, narrow and deep gorges, mountainous horns overlooking Chefchaouen.
This site of extraordinary beauty presents a rich vegetation of Moroccan fir trees, an endemic variety that constitutes the original forest mixed with Atlas cedars, Thujas de Barbarie or boxwood from the Balearic Islands, maple trees and several varieties of oaks.
With its extensive aquifer network, the Talassemtane has numerous springs, caves, caves, lapiaz and other avenues providing an important natural reservoir of water.
Access: by the N2 road which leads from Chefchaouen to the village of Cherafate located at the foot of the park, passing by Derdara and Bab Taza.
On foot, from Chefchaouen, a path climbs up to the park through the mountain. It starts behind the mosque located at the source Ras el-Ma which is located on the heights of Chefchaouen at 3 km from the city center.
God’s Bridge and Akchur Waterfalls
The natural bridge of God overlooks the Farda river at a height of 25 m and connects the two banks of the river to the delight of Berber mountain dwellers and hikers who criss-cross the area.
This natural work dug by erosion due to the river is located at Akchour, in the valley of Talembote, about thirty kilometers from Chefchaouen.
Nearby, the Achkour waterfalls are accessible after having covered several kilometres of trails in a mountainous setting with a tormented relief. Composed of numerous gorges and massifs covered with intense vegetation, notably bougainvilleas and oleanders, the landscapes are magnificent.
Access: by way of the mountain road P4105 which crosses the western Rif to the small seaside resort of Oued Laou located at about fifty kilometers from Chefchaouen.
Et-Tleta de Oued Laou
The small fishing village of Oued Laou, which has become a small seaside resort on the Mediterranean coast, is located 50 km north of Chefchaouen and 45 km south-east of Tetouan.
Oued Laou lives mainly from tourism with its beautiful 7 km long beach, set in a scenery of small mountains and cliffs bordering the Mediterranean waters. Festivals are organized there on the occasion of the summer season, while the rest of the year, its population lives exclusively from traditional fishing.
Every morning, fishermen drop their nets off the beach from their small wooden boats. Pageots, anchovies or sardines feed local restaurants and the weekly Saturday souk which takes place at the village exit.
These small restaurants are located on the outskirts of the beach or inside the village, typical tagines of guaranteed fish. About fifteen dirhams (1,50 €) for a plate of grilled sardines accompanied by a salad of tomatoes and onions…
Every Tuesday local products: ceramics, pottery, traditional fabrics… are exhibited in the central souk of this small village of the Rhomara country.
Access: in large collective taxis or by road N16 from Tetouan, by road P4501 from Chefchaouen.