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Chefchaouen, a Hispanic Dot in Morocco
Visiting Morocco: Chefchaouen's Most Beautiful Sights
Chefchauen: One of the Best Places to Visit in North Morocco
Chefchauen is a charming little town located in the Rif Mountains north of Morocco. It is a quiet, hassle-free village with a small and clean medina (old city) characterized by its white and blue colored houses. Chefchaouen offers good trekking opportunities through the Rif Mountains and attractive scenery from the cafés and roof top terraces.
This town was originally called Chaouen, which means “peaks” and referred to the surrounding Rif Mountains. Under Spanish occupation, Chaouen changed to Xauen and in 1975 the town was renamed Chefchaouen, which literally means “look at the peaks”. This should give you an idea of the beautiful views of the mountains you can admire from this lovely place.
Chefchaouen was founded by Moulay Ali ben Rachid in 1471 as a base from which the Berber tribes could launch attacks on the Portuguese invaders. With the arrival of Muslim and Jewish refugees escaping persecution in Granada, the town prospered and became what it is today. It was these refugees that came from Spain who build the whitewashed houses, with tiny balconies, tiled roofs and patios, which give the town its Hispanic flavor. The blue color was only introduced in the 1930s by the Jews, previously windows and doors had been painted green, the traditional Muslim color.
What to do in Chefchaouen
The old medina is where the majority of hotels, restaurants and shops are located. It is small, uncrowded and easy to find your way around (as opposed to the medinas in Marrakesh or Fes). It has two main squares, Plaza Uta el-Hammam, which is dominated by the Kasbah (citadel) and the Great Mosque and has several cafés, great for spending the early evenings; the other square is Place el-Majzen mostly occupied by tourist shops.
There are plenty of walks and trekking to do from Chefchaouen -to the ruined mosque overlooking the town, to the spring of the Ras el-Maa river, to the Rif Mountains and Talassemtane National Park- but the truth is we just walked around the medina and relaxed ourselves for one day before heading to our next destination within Morocco; nevertheless, it was a memorable experience quite apart from the other towns and cities we visited during our month in this extraordinary Muslim country.
Word of Advice: Chefchaouen can be an easy place to get to, but a difficult one to get out of. Arrange your bus ticket out of Chefchaouen at the bus station on arrival.
Recommended Travel Guide
Lonely Planet´s Travel Guide was the compass we used during our journey through Morocco, including Chefchaouen. Although not always accurate, it is great to have some kind of reference that serves great as a travel map.
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