CHEFCHAOUEN: EXPLORING MOROCCO’S BLUE CITY
I arrived in Chefchaouen via a short 2.5 hour flight from Paris to Tangier. Considering the tiny size of this charming town, there is no airport you could fly directly to. The closest major city you need to book a flight to would be Tangier or Fes.
I originally booked my flight with Morocco’s national carrier, Royal Air Maroc. However, I received an email the morning of my flight saying that the airline has been switched to AtlasGlobal Airlines.
To my surprise, these two airlines are not even affiliates. It was rather interesting – it’s like getting an email from United Airlines saying American Airlines will now operate our flight.
AtlasGlobal Airlines is a Turkish airline but somehow operated a flight between France and Morocco (with no stopover in Turkey). Besides the oddity of the switch-up, the flight was rather comfortable. Even for such a short trip, in-flight service included snacks and dinner. The only thing that was missing was in-flight entertainment. But for such a short trip, this wasn’t a necessity.
1) Chefchaouen looks exactly just like the pictures on pinterest and google images
2)It’s literally blue everything – even the stray cats are all blue (kidding)
3) I already like the vibe so much more than Tangier – it’s so much more relaxed and the locals are not as aggressive to tourists…
4) Street signs are in Spanish and Arabic
5) There are locals that actually live inside the Blue Walled Medina, and I would probably be so annoyed living 24/7 and navigating around tourists who are taking pictures everywhere (like me).
6) And there are the locals that actually sell weed… everywhere…
7) The travellers in Chefchaouen are relaxed and so chilled (see impression above…)
8) There are rooftops everywhere!
9) The hotel/pension/residence I stayed at looked like it was straight out of a fairy tale. (See review here)
10) Food is ok…. Much of the restaurants are catered to tourists.
11) I wish I stayed longer than 2 days.
The classic Moroccan cuisine: meat tagine with vegetables and beef couscous with sweet onions and vegetables. I usually had two lunches and two dinners with these on heavy rotation.
Chefchaouen means “two horns”
The streets are both in Spanish and Arabic (Spanish and Arabic is spoken in Northern Morocco whereas the rest of the country is French and Arabic.
Why the blue? Chefchaouen became a refuge for thousands of Jews back in the 1920’s and made the city their own. The Jewish refugees took their brushes and painted the town blue to ressemble the sky and heaven.
You can certainly get around Chefchaouen without knowing a lick of Arabic. However, locals tend to appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language, even if it’s just one word.
Perhaps one word that stuck to my head is the basic, but very important word, Thank you (Shukran!)
Note that the northern part of Morocco speaks mostly Spanish and Arabic, whereas the southern part speaks mostly French and Arabic.
Getting to and out of Chefchaouen was a struggle. I did not research properly and I had to leave Chefchaouen one day earlier than I wanted because of the religious holiday in Morocco.
Eid Al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday of the year, where Muslims celebrate for three days by sacrificing an animal (mostly sheep, goat, cow, or camel).
Unfortunately, I planned to leave Chefchaouen during the festivities, which made it difficult to book a bus back to Tangier. Everything in Morocco is close during this holiday– including bus transportations in and out of Chefchaouen.
Also, CTM buses are not online-booking friendly – so you must reserve your seats at the bus station. I had to go with a different company as they were all sold out the day I left for Chefchaouen.
MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE
Seeing sheep get dragged around. In Islam, an animal (usually cow or sheep) is killed and used as sacrifice for the religious holiday. It’s different kind of memorable experience…
BEST SIGHTS TO SEE IN CHEFCHAOUEN
Chefchaouen is all about the blue city of the Medina.
There are also waterfalls next to Chefchaouen where a lot of other travelers visit. Unfortunately, because I had to cut my stay in Chefchaouen a day short, I was not able to visit the waterfalls.
Chefchaouen is only accessible by bus and the closest major cities are Tanger and Fes.