Travel

Chefchaouen

CHEFCHAOUEN
ifty Shades of Blue
Situated beneath the rugged topography of the Rif mountains, the Moroccan town of Chefchaouen strikes one as a surreal place upon first encounter. Adorned with a unique cultural makeup, uncommon antiquities and most famously, an array of distinctive blue buildings, the village is a perfect destination for foodies, explorers and history-buffs alike.

Established by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa in 1471, Chefchaouen initially served as a Moorish fortress for exiles from Spain. Over the years the city thrived and welcomed Jews and Christian converts alike, which resulted in the formation of its rich cultural tapestry comprising of Muslims, Berber tribespeople, Jews, as well as the descendants of the Moorish exiles from Spain.

Among the key places to see in the azure city comes the Old Medina. With its Moroccan and Andalucian influenced bright-blue buildings, red-tiled roofs and narrow alleyways, a trip to this quaint and colourful bazaar feels like stepping into another world. Brass teapots and plates glint from the shadows. Handwoven cloaks and shawls cover the walls and tables, while vibrant patterned bags and Moroccan slippers lie in haphazard piles, spilling from their sacks into the market lanes.

Shopping isn’t the only way to entertain yourself in this provocative city. Feast your senses – especially tastebuds – on the hundreds of spices, aromatic herbs, textures and smells that permeate Chefchaouen. The best way to kick off the day is through a bakery trip in the morning: the local bread is baked in a traditional wood-fired oven, giving it a distinctive taste and a crispy shell.

For lunch, try the town’s signature Tagine: a typical Moroccan dish made using fish, vegetables, spices, nuts and oil served on a bed of fluffy couscous. Tagine, usually eaten for lunch or dinner, has many variations but most commonly consists of meat, various vegetables and spices. The dish often includes ras-el-hanout, a tangy blend of around 30 spices, some of which are turmeric, paprika, cardamom, chilli, cumin and cinnamon.

On the more adventurous side, Chefchaouen has plenty to offer to thrill-seekers as well. Valleys, gorges and picturesque peaks are in abundance in the surrounding area of the city, where arid landscapes meet trickling mountain streams. They can be explored through multi-day treks or day trips, the best time to do so being April to June.

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