Chefchaouen, Morocco

August 12, 2020 Chefchaouen, Morocco

Back in early March when my mom and I traveled from southern Spain to Morocco, we took a day trip from our the Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay to the city of Chefchaouen. Famed for its beautiful blue buildings, Chefchaouen is located in the Rif Mountains in the northwest region of Morocco, and its name translates to "blue pearl." The city was founded in 1471 and served as a small fortress to defend against Portuguese invasions. After the Spanish Reconquista in 1492, many Jews and Moors fled from Spain to the city. It was conquered by the Spanish in 1920, but was declared independent by Morocco in 1956 and removed from Spanish rule.

There are many rumors as to why the city is entirely blue, though there I two that I have heard more frequently than others. The first theory is that the tradition was brought over by the Jews who escaped from Spain after the Spanish inquisition, since blue is a sacred color according to Jewish belief. The other common rumor is that the city was painted blue to repel mosquitos.  

Visiting the famed "Blue City" had been at the top of my bucket list for so many years, and it was exhilarating to be able to see the sights I had feverishly poured over on Pinterest. Aside from marveling at the various shades of blue and wandering through the narrow side streets and alleyways decorated with potted flowers and hanging lanterns, one of the most memorable aspects of Chefchaouen was seeing the dozens of cats and kittens against the backdrop of blue. Of course, while I had many laughs and heartwarming feelings as I watched the kittens groom themselves and bask in the warmth of the sun, it was also a little upsetting to see some of the cats' poor health conditions. It also served as a reminder that as you travel, while it is important to enjoy the wonderful parts of every destination you visit, it is also pertinent to pay attention to all aspects of that place; to step away from being the typical tourist and try to get a sense of a city, country, or town in a way more authentic and less sugar-coated way.

As in the other large cities in Morocco, Chefchaouen had its fair share of shops selling all sorts of touristy gadgets, colorful clothing, bejeweled rugs and table runners, and traditional tajines. Unlike the bigger cities, however, the sellers in Chefchaouen were much less aggressive in their efforts to sell their goods to tourists. This realization came to us a few days later when we visited Marrakesh, where the tradespeople were a little more pushy. 

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