A few years ago, a friend in Costa Rica went on an extensive trip with her family through Europe and northern Africa. She posted photos and information on the “The Blue City” on Facebook (Thank you, Marta Herrera). Ever since reading her post, I have had Chefchaouen, Morocco, on my bucket list. It just looked amazing.
It is affectionately known as “The Blue City,” because the medina – the old central part of the city with winding, narrow streets – is predominantly painted blue. Homes and businesses have chosen to paint and whitewash (or should I say “bluewash) their properties. It has created an amazing and stunning visual and cultural highlight.
I shared in my last blog that our son and daughter-in-law are spending some time in Spain, and we have joined them for a few weeks. The four of us made the short trip to Fez, Morocco, last weekend. We enjoyed Fez a lot – the medina is amazing and other-wordly – but, honestly, the highlight was the trip to Chefchaouen. We had a driver who safely transported us there in about four hours – through lovely agricultural landscapes.
Our guide, Abdl, met us upon our arrival in Chefchaouen. He spoke excellent English, and was very knowledgeable about the history and story of the medina, having been born and raised there.
There are various accounts of why Chefchaouen’s medina is blue. One is that the blue keeps mosquitoes away. Another is that the calming color of the sea helps to cool the residents in the hot Moroccan sun. The most common story is that it was painted blue by the Jews who settled there after fleeing Hitler, to identify their homes as Jewish, as opposed to the Muslim homes. Several years ago, the city decided to go all out and capitalize on the idea.
The result is a brilliant maze of blue, spotted with the bright colors of blankets, shawls, and other handicrafts made by Moroccan artisans. Streets are very narrow – no room for vehicles, just humans and donkeys. Cats thrive everywhere, and make an interesting contrast to the blue (see the last photo below).
I have visited 56 countries and have seen some absolutely amazing things, but I have to admit that The Blue City is one of the most unique and picturesque places I’ve ever seen. If you ever get the chance, make the trip. It’s a feast for the eyes.
One of the advantages of being a part-time expat is that you often find yourself in interesting places – because you go places and meet new people. I’m grateful that I found myself in Chefchaouen, Morocco, this week. Incredible!
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