Chefchaouen or Chaouen is a city in northwest Morocco. It is known for its blue-rinsed houses and buildings, a tradition that comes from the town’s former Jewish population.
The city was found in 1471, as a small fortress which still exists to this day, by Moorish exiles from Spain led by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Chefchaouen was a base for Riffian berber tribes from which attacks on Portuguese Ceuta were made. After the fall of Granada in 1492 there was a wave of Muslim and Jewish refugees that flooded into Morocco, who brought to the city a distinct Andalusian architectural style including tiled roofs, hanging balconies, and courtyards. It all clustered up into beautiful narrow blue maze-like town with cobbled-stoned streets.
The city was closed to all the foreigners, specially to the Christians, until the beginning of the Spanish occupation in 1920. Between 1924 and 1926, during the war of the Rif, Abd-el Krim was able to expel the Spaniards, but it did not take long to be occupied again in September of 1926, this time they remained until the Moroccan independence in 1956.
Chefchaouen as it is often called by Moroccans, is a popular tourist destination because of its proximity to Tangier and the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. . “Chef Chaouen” derives from the Berber word for horns, Ichawen, because the shape of the mountain tops above the town look like the two horns (chaoua) of a goat. There are approximately two hundred hotels catering to the summer influx of European tourists.
Chefchaouen is also the center of hashish production. So, be aware that touts and false-guides (Faux-Guides in French), will offer to sell you some or take you on a promenade to show you where it is grown. Even though you will see locals puffing away in public, it’s best for foreigners visiting Morocco to avoid such solicitations since you may end up getting arrested and serving an unwanted jail sentence.
Chefchaouen is a popular shopping destination for many European tourists, as the town offers some native handicrafts that simply can not be found in most other places in Morocco. Woven blankets and wool garments are among two of these handicrafts, though there are many goods made the old way, from leather goods to shoes to cedar wood furniture. In addition to this, Chefchaouen is a popular stop among tourists who are looking for a more traditional and oriental experience.
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