Chefchaouen, Morocco - Liquidtravel
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Chefchaouen, Morocco

Heading southeast along the Moroccan coast just past Tétouan, you will find a beaten down, half visible sign pointing the way to the small village of Chefchaouen or more traditionally, “Chaouen.” This picturesque community is given only modest attention in most guidebooks. The few images published reveal a scene straight out of Morocco’s distant past. As you approach through the ech-Chaoua peaks in the Rif Mountains, you will note heavy lines of clouds that move up and over these summits. They appear like waves rushing to flood the valley below. Here the air is crisp and the temperature drops as you enter this hidden retreat.    

Isolated until the early 20th century, Chefchaouen has preserved a way of life that flourished in Moorish Spain until the 16th century. Its architecture, customs, and traditional lifestyle continue unabated. But recently many of these customs have been challenged by the flood of merchants deeply descending on this quiet community. The more traditional jbala men and women, who represent some of the oldest indigenous people of the region, continue their customary lifestyle. Many jbala men still wear their “burnoose” cloaks; while the jbala women wear striped and brightly colored skirts. The women’s heads are even covered with straw hats decorated with dyed balls of yarn hanging along each side which bob back and forth as they move past. Their way of life is still very much intact although the outside influences are having a dire effect on the younger generations.    


The more traditional jbala men and women, who represent some of the oldest indigenous people of the region, continue their customary lifestyle. Many jbala men still wear their “burnoose” cloaks; while the jbala women wear striped and brightly colored skirts. The women’s heads are even covered with straw hats decorated with dyed balls of yarn hanging along each side which bob back and forth as they move past. Their way of life is still very much intact although the outside influences are having a dire effect on the younger generations.    

The open-aired market or "souk" is one of the oldest and most charming in all of Morocco. The streets are steep and narrow and paved with stones that have been polished by the thousands of feet which have trodden throughout the media for centuries. Moving away from the main square, let yourself be guided by the beautiful colors that surround you.

The homes are painted white, azure blue, indigo and purple and have blue shutters and elaborately decorated doorways. Along with the small squares, ornate fountains and ocher tile roofs Chefchaouen is a select treasure. As you walk quietly throughout the district, only the muffled echoes of young children playing or the silent discussion between merchants can be heard over the evening breeze.  

Here you will find beautiful tapestries, rugs and other textiles that have been woven using techniques passed down through antiquity. Pack mules are still lead throughout the streets carrying many of the handcrafted goods and supplies as they have for centuries. The eager merchants are more than willing to discuss their merchandise and engage in the time honored art of negotiation. Time passes slowly here, and it is all too easy to sit and watch the day(s) go by. Chefchaouen is a palace of peace in a complex and chaotic society and one worth making the trek to visit.

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