Chefchaouen - The Blue Pearl of Morocco
January 22, 2019
by Tayla Hallett
We drove the few hours from Fes to get to this beautiful place. The Blue Pearl of Morocco – Chefchaouen.
In the depths of a valley hidden in the Rif Mountains, this town is just nestled in the shadows of the hills above them. Watched over by a Spanish mosque that was never used, this blue town isn’t big but has a lot of heart. From speaking to Abdoul (our tour leader) he explained the blue was the colour of choice from the Jews who fled Europe during the war and also (bonus!) helps ward off mosquitoes. As there is a running stream where the women do washing, the lack of mosquitoes was really surprising so I assume the blue works.
We got into Chaouen late in the day, dropped our bags at the hotel and very quickly made our way into town. The old medina was all I could have asked for and more being drenched in colour, small stalls and food options galore. The sun was peaking through the clouds so I made the most of my camera while I had the chance to snap this incredible place. If you have not been to Morocco before, I have one word to say to you – cats. They are everywhere! The cats aren’t in your face and just kind of laze around the place but make a fantastic contrast to the blue of Chaouen.
The best place to buy your Moroccan Rugs
We explored the medina as much as we could looking down each alleyway, watched the kids kick their soccer ball against the walls and enjoy the steam pour out of the hammams. For hours we enjoyed this incredible place before ending our shopping at a rug emporium. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all covered in the beautiful hand made rugs that the shop was selling. We walk through and sit down around the edges of the “showroom”, served a beautiful blend of Moroccan Whisky a.k.a Green tea with fresh mint. Moroccan tea is absolutely everywhere, it is delicious and so refreshing – I have tried countless times to try and remake this at home and it just is not the same. We got rugs thrown out to us of the storeroom left and right while explained to us the different materials that are used to make them. If you are looking for a good Moroccan rug – buy one in Chaouen, it is less costly than the main hot spots like Marrakech and Casablanca. The rugs here can be rolled up and shipped across the world to your doorstep so you don’t have to worry about your luggage becoming overweight. One thing to remember – real Moroccan rugs are pricey. I will be honest and say they are probably much better value for money than buying them in your own country but still they are up there. You can haggle for your rug and buying more than one of anything will attract a discount so if you are wanting to buy more than one – do it at the one shop.
The best place to stay
Hotel Suggestion: Dar Echchaouen
This incredibly beautiful house is just a stunning – (Dar means house in Arabic). It is tucked away outside of the old medina and it doesn’t have the classic blue like the rest of Chaouen but it is a sight for sore eyes. This hotel doesn’t have an elevator and even to get to the front desk, has a few stairs so not necessarily wheelchair accessible. We were travelling in Morocco at the start of winter so the weather was fairly cold however I was extremely tempted to get in the pool. This amazing pool overlooked the town and would be so picturesque in the summertime sipping on a Moroccan whiskey soaking up the sunshine. The quaint hotel rooms are clean, well dressed and the bathrooms are great too. Good water pressure, hot showers and oh boy – the breakfast. Breakfast at Dar Echchaouen was amazing – we received a smorgasbord of bread, pastries, cheeses, olives, and spreads. It was by far the best breakfast that I had in the whole of Morocco. With goats cheese being a produced locally it was so good I could have just eaten it like yogurt, straight off the spoon.
This hotel is in a great location, whilst outside the walls of the medina, it is super close to an entrance, plus only a 30-minute mini-hike up to the Spanish mosque. As it is set on the side of a hill, this has incredible views of the city and the countryside alike. It is not a hostel and therefore does come at a higher price but if you are splurging for a few nights on your trip to Morocco, make it here in Chaouen.
The best place to Hammam
Hammams are essentially public bathing houses. I have never been more at peace with myself and my body than I had been when I went to the Hammam in Chaouen. No body shaming, all real women, helping other women – just being themselves. There are dedicated times for men and women to attend separately and I went in with 3 people I only met a week earlier and came out not remembering their bodies but remembering how open we all were with each other. The expectation is that you meet the owner of the hammam at the front door and pay her money to enter and also for black soap. From here you enter the changing area where you get down to just your underwear (no bra) and walk into the steam rooms. There are 3 rooms which are different temperatures. We sat on the floor in the hottest steam room for a while, then we had a woman wash us head to toe. Literally – head to toe. She spoke no English and we spoke no Arabic but we shared a laugh and my skin has never been scrubbed so thoroughly. Honestly, so much dead skin came off my body I must be kilos lighter. Note for the hammam goer- BYO exfoliating glove, they sell them for approx. 2 Euro on the street. The Hammam that was recommended to us from another Australian who lived in Chaouen was Hammam Ben Azouz. I would suggest using maps.me the app to find it – super helpful!
I was on the North Morocco Adventure with Intrepid and I couldn’t recommend it more. Overall, Chefchaouen was eye-opening and worth a stop in your Moroccan adventures.