Chefchaouen can easily be visited while touring Southern Spain. For first time visitors to Morocco it is probably one of the easiest and most pleasant places to discover the delights of this north African country. It was founded in the 15th Century and populated by Jewish and Muslim refugees from the Inquisition in Spain. Isolated until the early 20th century it has preserved a way of life that flourished in Moorish Spain more than 500 years ago.
Places to Stay
I would recommend staying in the walled medina. For the budget traveller I suggest Pension Cordoba. It is an old family home with simple, spotlessly clean rooms and shared bathrooms around the central courtyard. (150 Dirham a day for a double room)
The medina abounds with similar places. Nearby is the more up market Casa Hassan. With seven individually decorated rooms with en-suite bathrooms and an excellent restaurant, it is a gem. (500 to 700 Dirham a day for dinner, bed and breakfast)
Places to See
This is a town which is a living museum. The medina begs to be explored in detail. Watch shoemakers hand make the white and yellow fine leather pointed slippers worn by the locals. The jalabba still worn many people are sewn with finely embroidered seams. Small boys hold embroidery thread taut for the tailor working on the seams. Carpenters work with fragrant cedar wood making tables and chairs. Young boys help to paint the furniture with delicate Islamic designs and if you are lucky you will find the workshop producing beautiful inlaid furniture. You will not be able to miss the Berber weavers at their looms producing the many carpets on sale everywhere.
It is also a great shopping place for craftwork of all kinds. The whole Medina comes alive in the evening when everybody is shopping or selling in the narrow streets. For excellent high quality photographs of the town visit Gallery Phan in Rue Targin.
Visit the Kasbah in the main square Place Outa el Hammam (10 dh). It encloses a quiet garden and houses a small museum of ancient pottery and photographs of the traditional dress of Berber tribes people in the area. And look onto the ancient fundouk (inn) off the same square.
Places to Eat
For a simple workman’s lunch try Restaurant Assada in a lane north of the main gate Bab el Ain (the main gate into the medina). Try harira, a thick nourishing soup available at the first restaurant on the left as you come into the northwest corner of Place Outa el Hammam or in the small, unnamed restaurant next to Pension Yasmin on the road up to the Place. Salon Aladin off the north end of the square is one of the best restaurants catering for tourists (3 course menu: 45 dh). For slightly more up market food both Restaurant Tissemal in Hotel Casa Hassan and Restaurant Aladin (which also houses an art gallery) are good. (3-course menu: 60 dh)
In the evening about 7 pm try some karenti sold on the streets from large flat baking trays. It is a delicious egg and chickpea flour snack flavoured with pepper and cumin and served on pieces of brown paper. And enjoy mint tea or freshly squeezed orange juice and watch the Chefchaouen world go by from one of the cafes in the main square.
Excellent French croissants and pain au chocolat are sold first thing in the morning at Patisserie Magou outside the medina just below the gate Bab el Ain. Take them into CafÃ© Mondial next door to eat with a glass of milky coffee.
Chefchaouen can be reached by bus or Grand Taxi from Tetuan and Fez. Unfortunately the bus station is at the lower edge of the town. Unless there is a taxi available it is a half hour uphill walk to the Medina.
Post office and E-mail
The Post office is just west of CafÃ© Mondial and for 10 dh an hour you can surf the net between Patisserie Magou and CafÃ© Mondial. Just go up the stairs through the small photocopy and stationery shop.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our Africa Insiders page.