Since we live right in the ancient Fes medina, my idea of a holiday most often doesn’t include visiting other medinas here in North Africa. The cacophony of market vendors calling out the day’s carrot prices, the aroma of snails boiling in spicy broth, the traffic jams that occur when mixing humans and donkeys on cobbled alleyways, even the rubbish on the roads or swirling around in the air on a hot windy day… these are all things that endear this place to my family and I, that make it home to us. And we love it, but certainly don’t need to vacation in it!
“Everything is BLUE here!”
Chefchaouen, however, is an exception. This fairly large town with a quaint little old city makes even us full time medina-dwellers feel like we’re in a whole new world…and a world of blue no less! The history of the town is long and filled with adventure but it was the Jewish occupants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that began painting the town a light but brilliant shade of blue. The sunlight catches the hue and the whole combination of cobblestone and terracotta-tiled roofs and overflowing flowerboxes and children waving outside of crooked little windows- it’s absolutely glorious! And that’s just in the town itself… if you can pull your eyes off of the charming surroundings and look up, you’re in for a treat that rivals even the whimsy of the medina… Chefchaouen literally means “look at the peaks” and it almost comes as a surprise to see that the whole community is nestled in a valley surrounded by stunning, protective pinnacles which are breathtaking to gaze upon and exhilarating to hike, climb and trek through.
The town also has a reputation for being a place where the hash flows freely and though you can expect to be offered local weed, this is certainly not the defining characteristic of the community and a fabulously successful family holiday is entirely possible. Shopkeepers seem a bit more laid back than they are in the bigger cities and there are a plethora of great little restaurants to enjoy. The town’s location is lovely and for a Canadian who is accustomed to driving 16 hours across pancake-flat prairies just to get a change of scenery, the fact that a couple of hours’ drive from Chefchaouen can take you to either the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean or an ultra-chic clothing boutique in modern Rabat city is astounding! Yet another reason why Morocco simply must be one of the most geographically-diverse countries on earth!