Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chefchaouen - Morocco's mountain retreat

Chefchaouen is a blissful retreat in the Rif mountains that makes for a relaxing few days en route from Tangier to Fez. The View from Fez team reports.

Uta al-Hammam Square

While the new part of Chefchaouen clambers down the mountain, it's the medina perched up high that draws visitors. Clustered around the main square, Uta al-Hammam, the houses, doors, walls and even some pavements are painted various shades of blue that range from turquoise to mauve. The square is dominated by the sandstone kasbah that's now a museum, and has fascinating photographs of the town through the years. There's a peaceful garden inside the complex, too.

The rest of the square is lined with lots of restaurants with pavement tables. Here you can while away your time, sipping mint tea and people-watching ...

... or chewing the fat, like the locals:

Food at these pavement cafes is generally good, though the menu is always the same, basic Moroccan fare. Otherwise, there are some reasonably good restaurants on offer (the same menu again, though). The View from Fez was disappointed with the food at Casa Hassan, which seems to have lost the plot - lots of items on the menu were not available and what was on offer was pretty nondescript. Much better was Casa Aladin, with its three floors and a roof terrace and some interesting art on the walls that's all for sale.

There's a huge range of budget and medium-priced accommodation available in and around the medina, but little in the upper range. The Parador Hotel near the square is a pretty soulless place, but one of the only places with a bar. High up on the hill is the Atlas hotel with its disco and bar, but unless you're very fit, you'd need a car to get there.

The View from Fez team stayed at the colourful Dar Meziana on the northwestern edge of the medina. It's very comfortable and has great views over the medina from the roof terrace. Be warned, though, that prices include dinner at Casa Hassan; only breakfast is served at Dar Meziana itself.

Dar Meziana is up this pretty street

What to do in Chefchaouen
The main interest of many visitors to Chaouen is, apparently, partaking of the local herb ... but there's more to the town than that. There is an abundance of shops specialising in local clothing, jewellery, antiques, fossils and ceramics.

The shopping is good in Chefchaouen

On the hill opposite the town is an old, ruined mosque. This is now being restored and will be a working mosque, but visitors will still be welcome to climb the minaret for spectacular views across the valleys, and there'll be a cafe on site too.

The mountains around the town are great for hiking. If you're more adventurous, you could try climbing here too. Jonathan Ayrton is a qualified rock-climbing instructor who lives in Chaouen. He enthuses about the wide range of grades in the area; the limestone routes are bolted. A day's instruction costs around Dh550, or he'll accompany you if you're an experienced climber; phone him on 0615 435 018.


Anonymous said...

OMG. What a gorgeous place!! Thanks for the photos and post.

Andrew and Chrisy said...

Wonderful photographs and uber-cool story. Thank you. It makes us drool!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice one.

Dilbert said...

You were right about the food at Casa Hassan. It was very poor. The staff were friendly but not much on the menu was available. We dined with two New Zealanders and a guy from Spain and we all decided to try Casa Aladin the next night. It was much better. Thanks for the blog we love it even when we are in Germany as it reminds us of the good times we have had on three Moroccan holidays.