In my recent brief but memorable first time trip to Northern Africa from my current home-base in Dubai, UAE, I only chose to experience three places in Morocco. Because of limited time and restricted budget, I only went to Rabat, Fes and Chefchaouen. That practical decision left me with an unfinished business with Morocco to go back and visit Casablanca, Essaouira, Tanger, Meknes, Volubilis, Marrakech, the Sahara desert and other fascinating places, in the near future.
While everyone who have been to Chefchaouen, or Chaouen have published, posted and uploaded something about it on YouTube, travel blogs, books and magazines, I decided to share in a slightly different perspective, what I realized about this town that has been fast becoming favorite travel destination.
FIVE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TRAVEL TO CHEFCHAOUEN, MOROCCO
(1) If you have an aversion to long travel time, or particularly hate waiting for public buses or trains that only take passengers and ply the indirect routes in very few trips per day; worse, if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for an alternative solo-trip via grand taxi (read : vintage Mercedes sedans) to take you from point A in Morocco to Chefchaouen, then don’t even attempt to visit it. In other words, if you’re not adventurous, or if you’re not willing to take risks in the name of passion for travel, you may simply remain in your own comfort zone.
Chefchaouen is nestled beneath two mountain peaks, called Ech-Chaoua (the horns) of Rif Mountains in Northwest Morocco. It took me 4-hour-road-trip from my riad in Rabat, Morocco’s capital city, which I enjoyed immensely. The bilateral views by the windows of my grand taxi were awe-inspiring! Clear and blue sky, feathery clouds, gorgeous weather in October, crisp and fresh mountain breeze. I felt Mother Nature was smiling her sweetest to welcome my arrival. All worries and stress from hassles and challenges disappeared in a blink. It was pure bliss!
I left my riad in Rabat at 12 noon and reached Atlas Hotel in Chefchaouen at almost 4PM. Immediately after checking in, I went to the hotel’s balcony and savored the view of this charming Blue Pearl of Morocco.
(2) If you’re someone who’s meticulous with hotels or someone who prefers contemporary accommodation, Chefchaouen isn’t for you. Since the place is located high up on the mountains, most, if not all bed and breakfast, riads and inns are far from having complete amenities and facilities that could irk easily the picky tourist in you.
The most modern accomodation in Chefchaouen, the Atlas Hotel that I found online via the famous fashion blog of Bryan Boy, reminded me that being detached from reality and disconnected from urban necessities, specifically wifi access (because wifi-connection was only accessible at the lobby and not in the rooms of Atlas Hotel), is healthy for the soul and our entire being. The silence that lorded the entire hotel was ultimately relaxing and gave me irresistible opportunity to appreciate nature and casually commune with solitude.
(3) If for any reason you despise the color blue, you must not visit Chefchaouen. In case the place is new to your vocabulary and knowledge of geography and history, as it was to mine prior planning my trip to Morocco, you must know that this extraordinary town is washed in powder blue. According to historians, the blue-rinsed abodes and buildings came from the tradition of the town’s previous Jewish population.
The Berbers, or the indigenous people of North Africa, had deep roots of resistance and rebellion against Spanish and French colonial forces. Several attempts were made in order to keep their independence and prevent assimilation until they were defeated in 1926. One Moroccan man personally told me that blue was painted over traditionally white houses (the place, Casablanca in south of Chefchaouen is called as such because- casa means house, and blanca, white) as a form of acceptance.
I breathe for these touristy shots, worthy to be my Facebook cover photo! *insert silly laughs*
Let’s get down to business, shall we?
So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I present to you,
*drum roll, please!*
the otherworldly, Chefchaouen, Morocco.
(4) If you have fear of something that you haven’t experienced yet, like becoming terribly worried of being offered by touts of illegal drugs, then don’t dare travel to Chefchaouen.
Hashish or marijuana that is locally produced and grown by farmers in industrial scale could be offered to you insistently by local and foreign touts around the medina. I read it from the National Geographic Traveler Morocco guide book that I purchased months before my trip, and I personally experienced it immediately upon arrival at my hotel. A man approached me discreetly as I alight from my grand taxi, asked me if I’m interested with hashish. I just shook my head and said, No then I walked towards the lobby.
Hashish is still considered illegal in Chefchaouen, however it’s being frequently smuggled in compressed resin via fast boats to neighboring Italy, Spain and France. Apparently, I did go to Chaouen to experience a different kind of ecstasy from travel adventures, and still lucid never to experience being euphoric with illegal drugs.
I’d like to emphasize that traveling to Chefchaouen and entire Morocco is very safe even for solo-travelers like me, unless perhaps, you forgot to leave your anxiety at home.
(5) If you prioritize dining in your favorite commercial coffee shops and fast-food joints like Starbucks Coffee, Mcdonald’s or KFC, I’m afraid Chefchaouen isn’t the travel destination for you.
While it’s been mandatory for me to treat my very own palates to local dishes in every places I go to, I found myself lured and enticed to the colors, flavors, the casual and laid-back atmosphere by the outdoor dining shops and sidewalk cafes in Chefchaouen. Not to forget the menu at Paloma Restaurant was absolutely affordable but satisfyingly good! Wifi was fast and free too!
I tried the very Moroccan, Chicken tagine served with potato fries, free side dishes of aubergine and lentils, that I paired with piping hot Moroccan bread; I also sampled Paloma Restaurant’s Grilled prawns with spiced rice and fries. Everything on my table, including that 2 bottles of Coke, only cost 100 MAD (11.50 USD or 42 AED). That’s reasonably delicious!
The view from where I sat for dinner…
I took my time and spent almost an hour and a half having my early dinner at Paloma Restaurant, that’s only a stone’s throw away from the town square…
Before having breakfast the following day, I initially went to the balcony of Atlas Hotel again and treasured the freshest air to my lungs’ delight for the last time.
Then I confirmed from the staff at the concierge, my pre-arranged grand taxi and driver that took me to another 4-hour-road trip to Fes.
That priceless smile from Mother Nature viewed from my 4-hour-road-trip from Chaouen to Fes.
Despite it’s physically challenging to explore Chefchaouen’s steep and cobbled alleys, that undoubtedly required comfortable shoes, extra patience, and proper breathing; in spite of its uphill roads to and from the hotel that demanded taking petit taxi for 10 Moroccan dirhams per trip, considering the challenging and slow-paced transportation in and out of various places in Morocco, the experience of savoring cool mountain breeze while giving high regard to warm and welcoming smiles from the locals, the sight of those uniquely blue-tinted houses, were definitely one for the books!
I’m glad I gave my plan to travel to this blue town of Chefchaouen a green light!
Have you been to Chefchaouen, Morocco? How was your experience?
*This Morocco Blog Series includes :
- Riad Rcif : Jewel in the Medina of Fes, Morocco
- Chefchaouen, Morocco
- Rabat, Morocco
- Stay tuned for more.
*All photos on this blog post were taken using Samsung Galaxy Note 3.