Nestled among the Rif Mountains in the north of Morocco, lies the picturesque town of Chefchaouen. Famous for its blue buildings and relaxed atmosphere, “Chaouen” as the locals call it, provides a haven of peace and quiet. Though long popular to foreigners on holiday, namely Spanish, a recent visit by the king has bolstered its status as a tourist destination among Moroccans. Even with its increased activity, Chaouen remains as a quiet and quaint town, with friendly faces and relaxed attitude.
The medina in Chaouen is tiny compared to Fes, lending it that small town charm, where everyone knows everyone. People here are friendly, kids play in the streets, neighbors talk to neighbors and everyone takes things just a bit slower. The social network here is strong and your reputation is as important as your word. We found this the perfect place to take a few days off from traveling and from sight seeing to recuperate.
Riad Baraka, owned and operated by a British family, proved to be the perfect place to do nothing. And by nothing, we mean just sitting around all day, staying put and enjoying the beautiful terrace. The riad, located in the lower side of the medina, is privy to most spectacular view of town. I couldn’t resist taking a panorama of terrace view, hosted at the link provided below.
During our time here, we tried out a variety of restaurants in the medina, ranging from tourist traps in the main plaza, to neighborhood restaurants tucked away in a nondescript corner. We were able to eat fantastic three course meals, consisting of salad, tagine or couscous, and fruits for 40 DH ($5). Two places stood out as offering genuinely good meals without hidden charges or markups. Darcom, located in one of the less frequented corners of the main square, is a more intimate restaurant, with views of the mountains to the south of Chaouen on their spectacular terrace. The price of a meal there is 80 DH however, though quite worth it as a treat from time to time. Assada, our favorite, is reasonably priced at 40DH, with fantastic food and service. We dined there nearly everyday.
Though fruit is great way to finish dinner, it isn’t a proper dessert. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we went in search of the “cookie man” This “cookie man” wanders the medina and main plaza, carrying his tray of baked goods on a large platter, single handed. He does not have a store front, nor does he have set hours or a set schedule. We made the mistake of getting hooked on his cookies a few days into our stay. Now if you know Sara, she usually isn’t fanatic about sweets unless it involves some type of chocolate. These cookies, a blend of sesame and various nuts, lacked chocolate but were delicious and addictive enough to cause Sara to stalk this “cookie man”. She would go out looking for the unmistakeable silver tray, sometimes waiting half an hour or more.
In an attempt to burn off the excess calories form the delicious food and deserts, we planned a quick hike up to an abandoned mosque on nearby hill, overlooking the medina. The scenic path starts out past a small waterfall, where locals gather to clean carpets and other large textiles, and continues past a few goat farms up towards the mosque. The path is well marked and provides different views of the medina. Only on this path was I able to realize how steep the medina was built. Chaouen looked like it was on a 30 grade hill. Once at the mosque, we were rewarded with a complete view of the whole city, unhindered by any buildings or trees. This hike is an easy must-do for visitors.
Feeling inspired from our trip up to the mosque, Sara and I decided to take a cab out to Akchour with a couple of Aussie girls staying at Baraka. Located about 50km outside of Chaouen, Akchour is a park known for its cold clear water and waterfalls. We planned to hit only the smaller of the two waterfalls since our time was limited to three hours or so, due to late afternoon start. After climbing over wet, slippery rocks and fast moving currents of crystal clear water, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the small fall. Unfortunately, during our hike out, my footing slipped in the fast moving current, causing me to briefly “dip” my backpack into the water. Luckily, all the contents inside the pack stayed dry, though the phone I had been using to track our GPS route, located in an outside pocket, didn’t quite make it.
The rest of our stay in Chaouen consisted of walking the markets, looking for “cookie man” and just relaxing. Joe, Trevor and Ann from Baraka really made our stay at the riad feel like home. The combination of Chaoen and Baraka turned out to be the perfect break from our long travels.
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