While exploring the labyrinthine cacophonous medina (old town) of Fez in Morocco on a recent trip to Northern Africa, I became aware of Chefchaouen, a gorgeous mountain city against the backdrop of the Rif Mountains. On road, about 200 km away from Fez, I convinced Hassan, my guide-cum-driver inside that country to make a change in my travel plan, allowing me to travel to that city. It took Hassan about five hours to drive to the destination, with a couple of stops at roadside local villages.
From my online search, I’d already gathered that the city was filled with white-washed homes with distinctive, powder blue accents, earning its designation as the “Blue Pearl of Morocco”. Historically, the city was originally founded as a military outpost shortly before the Spanish “Reconquista of Granada.” Subsequently, it grew quickly with Muslim and Jewish immigrants fleeing Spain, creating a new society here enriched by the amalgamation of two different religions as well as their cultural traits. Thus the folklore exists that the migrant Jews began to paint their houses blue. For them, the color blue represents the sky, which reminded people of heaven and God. But according to another view, walls are daubed in all shades of blue to represent the color of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. However, after the creation of the state of Israel, most of the Jews relocated there. But current residents maintained the tradition of painting the houses in different hues of blue. Nowadays its economy is based on both agricultural and handicraft industries, for example, textile, leather, and mosaic along side with tourism industry.
On a mountainous road, we approached the city in a valley. The hues from the buildings of the metropolis appeared. Entering the city and settling in my overnight residence, I began my exploration. The blue-white houses and alleys were all around creating a charming visual. The background Rif Mountain became visible from one such alley. Later I checked out city’s red-walled Kasbah, a 15th-century fortress. I also visited a few stalls offering local artisans’ handicrafts. That night, a meal of a salad (from locally grown vegetables) and a tajin (Moroccan’s delicacy) added to the experience. Next day, before leaving the “Blue Pearl”, I went for a short hike to the nearby Rif Mountain to experience the nature around there. Definitely, Chefchaouen was “far from the madding crowd” of Fez or Marrakech that I visited later.