I was so excited to finally visit the Blue Pearl – Chefchaouen in Morocco. Seeing images of the pretty town for years made me wary that I might be disappointed. No. This small city does not disappoint.
How many words for blue? How many shades of blue are there? Baby blue, azure, cobalt, pale blue, indigo, sky blue, navy blue, teal, sapphire, cornflour, periwinkle, Marjorelle blue, powder blue, electric blue . . . this could go on for many more words. And many of these shades are seen on the walls of the building of Chefchaouen and indeed dotted throughout streets in other Moroccan cities.
A bustling town high in the Rif Valley of northern Morocco, Chefchaouen sets itself apart from the dusty landscape in a palette of powder blue. The history of the settlement dates back to 1471, when it was a small fortress established by Moorish exiles leaving Spain to fight the Portuguese invaders.
As the Spanish reconquered Moorish lands in the late 15th century, Chefchaouen grew and prospered with the arrival of Muslims and Jews fleeing persecution.
The refugees whitewashed their houses, balconies and tiled roofs, and added citrus trees to the centre of their patios, creating a Spanish style and ambience.
But it was the Jewish immigrants who popularised the pale-blue wash, considered a holy colour in Judaism, that is now the town’s trademark.
The city’s signature colour is a variety of calming shades of blue that lower your blood pressure in seconds. Known as Morocco’s “blue pearl” or “blue city”, the buildings in Chefchaouen are painted using a talc or chalk-based paint that looks so beguiling. I saw a woman with a fat brush attached to a long handle painting a wall and later found out that only the women paint the walls – no men do this work. I couldn’t get to the bottom of this particular feminised ritual – so if anyone knows why, please comment and tell me.
The streets of the town aren’t wide, they’re not full of shops, the crowds aren’t thick and there’s less mania to the atmosphere than other touristy Moroccan towns.
In the charming town, it’s easy to spend a day wandering and trying to find new angles of blue. Up and down stairs, along the main arteries, through the small winding passageways and the doors . . . oh, so splendid.
The main square has open air cafes and restaurants where there’s no rush to move on. A slow lunch, a leisurely coffee, an hour or two sitting on a cushioned lounge and you’ll be happy, calm and certainly won’t get the blues – or maybe you will.
Writer Bev Malzard travelled with http://www.bypriorwandered up and down and in and around and absorbed the glorious blues of all shades. She ate lunch at Cafe Clock Chefchaouen and despite the variety of cuisines on offer: Arabic, Moroccan, Middle Eastern, vegan friendly, she refused the camel burger and settled for a good old Yankee burger with meat and chips.
She travelled with : www.bypriorarrangement.com