Some cities are well planned with identical structures, well sculptured gardens and straight-lined roads but when a city has one colour all over it, that’s harmony on another level.
The picture above shows Chefchaaouen (pronounced shef-shawn-wn), also known as Morocco’s blue city, will arrest you from whatever angle you see it. It is a truly beautiful town with unending blue walls and majestic mountains overlooking the unique town. This town is as rich in history as it is in its beauty.
The history of Chefchaaouen:
Oral history has it that the founding father, Moulay Ali Ben Moussa settled first the town of Chefchaouen in 1471. It then grew into a small fortress to fight the Portuguese invasions of Morocco. Unfortunately, they were conquered, opening up the town to the Ghomara tribes, Moriscos, and Jews who ran to and settled down in it in an effort to escape the Reconquista of Spainin 1492. Later, in 1920, Spain seized the old town, and it became a part of Spanish Morocco. Then, when Morocco declared its independence in 1956, Chechaouen town rejoined it once again.
There are several beliefs as to why the city’s walls were and are still painted blue.
To Follow Jewish Custom and Culture:
In the Jewish belief, the colour blue represents the sky, which in turn reminds people of heaven and God. There is, therefore, a strong tradition among Jewish communities of painting things blue and using blue dye to colour fabrics, especially prayer mats.
History also has it that the reason why the blue was spread all through the town is because early Jews in Chefchaouen introduced the practice of painting walls blue, in keeping with their religious and cultural practices. Many locals say, however, that the blue-coloured walls of Chefchaouen were only found in the Jewish part of the city, the mellah, until recently. Older residents say that most of Chefchaouen’s buildings within the medina used to be white during their younger years.
To Keep Mosquitoes Away:
Some say that shades of blue adorn the city to help deter mosquitoes. The colours of Chefchaouen’s buildings can look like flowing water. Which is linked to the claim that although mosquitoes generally choose to live near water, they don’t like being in the water itself. It is possible that residents noticed fewer mosquitoes in the Jewish part of town and decided to follow suit to rid their homes of the insects.
To Keep Cool:
Some locals say that the blue helps keep their homes cool when it gets warmer. While this probably wasn’t the original intention, it serves as a valid reason as to why the painting continues in modern times.
Chefchaouen’s main attractions:
Apart from the nearby natural attractions and activities, such as hiking in the mountains and visiting the cascades of Akchour, one of the main tourist attractions is to wander through the city’s medina and admire the picturesque scenes that unfold around each corner and down every staircase. Visitors can also pick up an array of traditional-Moroccan blue and white paintings on different-sized canvases depicting scenes of the city and local life are especially nice keepsakes.
This town also attracts visitors because of its nearby cannabis fields. Many farmers have planted cannabis around Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains, northern Morocco. A United Nations estimated 80,000 families in the rugged northern Rif mountains of Morocco make their living from growing marijuana, making Morocco the main hashish supplier for Europe and the world.
Worthy of note is that most explanatory signs are only available in Arabic and French. So, having a basic knowledge of either would add more depth to a visit.
Do you know a town with unique characteristics that the world should hear about? Do share with us in the comment section.