Thanh Cao

Surrounded by mountain ranges, the stunning Moroccan city of Chefchaouen makes an unforgettable impression.

While Morocco is filled with breathtaking tourist attractions for visitors, from magnificent natural scenes to the ancient medina quarters found in many cities, Chefchaouen remains among the most sought-after stops. Surrounded by mountains and with a 500-year-old fortress at its center, Chefchaouen (or just Chaouen for short), is a stunning location in its own right. But what makes it extra-special is the striking blue color that covers almost all the structures in Chaouen.

Founded as an ancient fortress at the end of the 15th century, when the country was grappling with Portuguese invasions, the city was only the only place in Morocco to be taken over by the Spaniards; thus, its architecture shows the influences of Moorish style and culture from Spain. Embraced by mountain ranges and nested on hills, Chefchaouen lavishes its admirers with an inexorable sense of serenity and calmness. Wandering among arrow and meandering alleys capture unforgettable images of colorful everyday life.

For a break, streetside cafés are the perfect way to slow down. A majority of cafés maintain open spaces and old-fashioned décor. They also make a good place to sample local snacks chicken tagine made in the ubiquitous clay pots of the country.

Another unmistakable feature of Chaouen is it large population of cats, which idly roam the city, stretching their limbs to sunbathe under verandas, while playing a vital role in catching mice and rats in the narrow warrens of alleys. The Blue City is also a heaven to shop for Moroccan souvenirs and handicrafts. Like many other tourist cities, townhouses are converted into eye-catching shops with merchandise sold by locals in their traditional outfits. Bargaining is a shopping must here; those in the know recommend that novice shoppers start negotiations at one-third of the offer price.

A visit to the hills north of town is perfect for catching a sunset. After one hour of light trekking, you’ll reach the peak to be greeted by the Spanish architecture of mosque Jemaa Bouzafar in can enjoy a panorama of the entire city of Chefchaouen below.  One reminder for taking photos – it can be considered rude to snap portraits of strangers without permission. Before you aim your lens at someone, step up to greet and them first; if the subject is vendor, perhaps buy some little souvenirs for them. After that, it’s often quite easy to take some photos. And of course, the Blue City itself makes the most magnificent subject of all.