Rabat SoSa: Chefchaouen Weekend

A visit to the Blue City, with plenty of tagine

Three weeks ago, when we started the SAP Social Sabbatical in Rabat, we were strangers, meeting for the first time to eat something I had never heard of…tagine. Now, we’re experts in many types of tagine: lemon chicken, kefta, beef with plums, and veggie.

This weekend, this former group of strangers traveled north to eat more tagine and to explore Chefchaouen, the Blue City.

We spent last weekend in Fez, and, on the surface, these cities have the same structure: a newer city on the outskirts, then a wall and a gate, an old Médina, with a grand central mosque, and a kasbah.

But the rhythm between Chaouen, as the locals call it, and Fez are very different. Fez is more, everything: people, miles in its Médina, kiosks, smells.

Maybe because it was welcome to Jews and even Christians, Chaouen is more open. The streets were less crowded, and we could see more daylight in the narrow alleys, or maybe it just felt that way from the skyblue walls.

Scenes from Chefchaouen

This is no knock against Fez, which is a beautiful and endlessly fascinating city. But Chefchaouen is different.

Upon arriving in the Médina, we ate…tangine. Then we walked through these blue alleys. Chaouen is a mountain town. Like other mountain towns I’m familiar with, Asheville NC or Lyons CO, this one moves a little slower, and is a little less hectic. Like those American towns, there’s a bohemian element here. Maybe the beautiful blue hues help with the laid back pace. Maybe its the mountain air. This was a different walk from last Saturday’s Medina stroll in Fez. This walk was more at ease. A little less haggling, and slightly more enjoyable.

Chaouen was once a stronghold for the Spanish to defend the Portugese, who were camped nearby. Spanish elements still remain. We heard several speaking Spanish, and the famous blue walls were complemented by red stucco roofs.

After wandering the alleys, we walked up a hill to a mosque overlooking the city and the valley below. This mosque, we learned afterwards, is a fake, built by the Spanish, but never used as a place of worship. We captured some real views, however. From this amazing perch we enjoyed a stunning sunset of the city and valley below. Then we ventured back down to eat…tagine.

Scenes from above Chefchaouen

Sunday morning we drove 45 min to the village of Akshour, in the Rif Mountains, to visit what’s called God’s Bridge, an natural extension over the river and canyon below. On the hike, we wrapped around, jumped across, then scurried over rocks along the river. All along the hike, kiosks dotted the banks, offering colorful plastic chairs for seating and mint tea and tangine, for purchase, warming on grills cut into the rock. Luckily we had a guide (in the red shirt below) to point out the direction, help us over the river, and to point out the Rif Monkeys hanging on the sheer walls of the canyon across from us.

And after the hike. We ate. Tagine.

After eating so much tagine together, and spending so much quality time after these two weekends, there are no strangers in this group. It’s a pleasure to know and travel with them all, and to call each of these former strangers, good friends.

Group photos courtesy of Ivy Ly.

technologist, cultural omnivore, book nut, father

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store