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Friday, 7 June 2013

ChefChaouen: the blue city

Chefchaouen, or Chaouen as it is commonly called, is also known as the blue city because its walls, streets and even flower pots are painted with a mixture of lime and the pigment of the anil plant called indigo. More or less anything that does not have a heartbeat gets a coat of blue paint here. 
Chaouen sits inland in the Rif mountains an hour and a half by car from Tangier and is a popular tourist destination not only because its colour is so striking but also because its medina is full of treasures begging to find a home.

This local woman takes her city's colour theme very seriously!

Indigo has insecticide properties and what started as a way to repel insects, became the symbol of the city. The small streets and alleys are a study in shades of blue from pale sky-blue to deeper hues and from purplish to greenish turquoise tones. The effect is striking and a great source of pride for the inhabitants of the city.

In a sea of blue, this hotel's stucco wall with intricate window frames and yellow fountain stands out. 


Inside, in the patio, there is just enough blue to remind us that we are in Chaouen. Note the motif on the arches on either side of the entrance.

The motif from the arches in the patio is carried over to the niche in the bedroom wall as is the blue theme of the city. This elegant detail gives the modestly decorated room an inimitable Moroccan flair.

Chaouen is also known for its wool production and blankets and rugs are made locally. One can see the weavers at work around town. Other locally made items such as this magnificent dark metal star lamp are for sale. 
Also for sale are soaps, spices and fragrant essential oils at the "pharmacie berbère", the local tribal "pharmacy" that specialises in remedies for everything and anything that ails you even, they claim, unrequited love.


The old fort was built in the 15th century by a sultan to repel the Portuguese invaders. In the 1920's during the Spanish protectorate of Morocco, it was used as an administrative building and served as a prison for, among other unfortunate souls, an uncooperative sultan. Temperatures rise to boiling point in the summer and a stay in the prison could not have been what dream vacations are made of.
The tower has been restored and is now a museum. The ocher colour of the centuries-old fort brings a soothing contrast in the all blue city.


Images: Jeanne-Aelia Desparmet-Hart, Sylvie pellet

2 comments:

  1. SUPERBE REPORTAGE DE MEME QUE CELUI SUR ASILAH TRES POETIQUE .... C.

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  2. Merci, Catherine, pour ce gentil commentaire. Ces villes sont parmi mes préférées au Maroc.

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