Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chefchaouen, Morocco

There is just no logical place to start this post other than simply with color. The small city of Chefchaouen, also known as The Blue Pearl of Morocco, is a photographer's dream, with supersaturated shades of blue covering nearly every surface. The countless colors of blue are so intense that it looks like your actual life has been filtered. Can a place possibly be as brilliant and colorful as the Instagram and Pinterest pictures? Yes.

Located in northwest Morocco, Chefchaouen is a magical town nestled in the beautiful Rif mountains. Some reports say the town is painted blue to ward off mosquitos, others say that Jewish refugees fleeing Europe introduced the color as a symbol of their faith. So, yeah, two very different explanations. Although tourism to the city is increasing, the town still feels very traditional and relatively untouched by visitors. Of the three major cities we visited (more on Marrakech and Fes later), Chefchaouen felt the most "local" or authentic.

To be honest, there isn't much to do in the city; there are no major sites to see, the central shopping area is small and easily covered, and alcohol is extremely hidden. However, just walking around the shops, and people watching at cafes is enough. I think I took truly over 1000 photos of every possible nook and cranny. We stayed for two nights, at the highly recommended Lina Ryad and Spa, and it was the perfect length of time. Riads are traditional Moroccan homes with an interior courtyard, many of which have been beautifully transformed into incredible small hotels. Ours was the highest rated in Chefchaouen, and was perfectly located, beautifully designed, had a quiet spa swimming pool, and beautiful views. The service was also beyond impressive.

After a day of just walking around, snacking at three different places, drinking mint tea, and exploring, we decided to settle in for a drink and some dinner. Most places did not serve alcohol (shocking that we still powered through to find it), but both the Hotel Atlas and Hotel Parador serve wine and beer alongside beautiful views. We watched the sun set over the city from the balcony of Hotel Parador before heading to dinner. Our favorite of the restaurants we visited, Beldi Bab Ssour, was recommended by a staff member at the riad as "like being welcomed into a Moroccan home" and did feel quite authentic. We had lamb koftas and chicken pastilla; it was all insanely flavorful and delicious.

This experience is one that will stay with me forever, through amazing memories and some of my favorite photos of all time. My insistence on seeing Chefchaouen changed the entire route of our trip, adding hours of driving time, but I wouldn't have changed it for anything.

STAY // Lina Ryad & Spa
EAT // Beldi Bab Ssour
DRINK // Hotel AtlasHotel Parador
SEE // Colors! Doors! No major can't-miss sites.
WEAR // Respectful clothing, covering legs and shoulders

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