Sublime Chefchaouen is the perfect place to rest and rejuvenate before reentering Morocco's special type of chaos
Nestled in Morocco’s northwest is Chefchaeoun, a blue-rinsed oasis far from the frenetic energy of Morocco’s larger cities. The town was founded in the 15th century by a descendent of the prophet Muhammad. At its inception, Chefchaouen was designed to defend against the Portuguese incursion into northern Morocco. Following the expulsion of non-Chistians from the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages, displaced Jews sought refuge at the base of the Rif Mountains. Grateful for their safety in Chefchaouen, the pious newcomers reflected the heavens in their homes, painting them in muted shades of blue and ivory. The wider community adopted the colour palate and today it adorns every wall, fountain, house and decorated doorway in the city.
In the morning, take in the view from Bouzaafar (the Spanish Mosque). Reach the Mosque by following the trail leading out of the Medina’s east gate. The path crosses the Ras el-Maa river where you’ll have the chance to see local women washing their laundry at the lavoir (communal outdoor laundry), a ritual dating back hundreds of years. From the Mosque, gaze across to the next hill, where Chefchaouen’s cerulean buildings merge into the cloudy sky.
Your next stop should be the Kasbah, a turreted and verdant arabian palace that embodies Morocco’s oriental charm. The fortress appears to be carved out of delicate terracotta; replete with lush private gardens, arched windows and pointed towers. The views from the Kasbah spread out over Plaza Uta el-Hammam to the mountains in the distance.
After tasting the life of a Moroccan royal, it’s time for some retail therapy in the Plaza below. Chefchaouen is an ideal location for shopping, as locals are friendly and helpful rather than insistent, allowing you to browse at your leisure. In the bazaar you will find woven and wool items typical of the region, including luxurious fragrances, bright textiles and colourful dyes.
After all of your hard-working haggling, it’s time for lunch. You will find respite and shade at the Restaurante El Jaleo, a terraced hidden gem on the hillside by the river. Choose a table in the garden and enjoy the view with mint and parsley-spiked lemonade in hand. For the more adventurous palate, try a spicy Berber coffee. The signature dish of Bissara, a hearty soup made from fava beans, will keep you energised into the evening.
An afternoon of indulgence at the spa is a necessity for any weary traveller. At Lina Ryad and Spa, lay by the sumptuous in-ground pool, shrouded by the domed roof and tranquil atmosphere. Ask for the hammam experience, which includes a deep massage and body scrub, leaving you feeling relaxed and restored.
Wind up your evening with a quiet walk through the maze of blue streets and mosaic lined alleys. At night time, the city takes on a magical cast of dark azure, transporting you into a fantasy scene out of One Thousand and One Nights. Find a quiet terrace and gaze up at the inky sky where whole constellations are etched into its depths.