Chefchaouen (Arabic: شفشاونShafshāwan [ʃəfˈʃɑːwən]; Berber languages: ⴰⵛⵛⴰⵡⵏ Ashawen), also known as Chaouen, is a city in northwest Morocco. It is the chief town of the province of the same name, and is noted for its buildings in shades of blue. Chefchaouen is situated just inland from Tangier and Tétouan.

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The Blue Pearl
الجوهرة الزرقاء
Chefchaouen is located in Morocco
Location of Chefchaouen in Morocco
Chefchaouen is located in Africa
Chefchaouen (Africa)
Coordinates: 35°10′17″N 5°16′11″W / 35.17139°N 5.26972°W / 35.17139; -5.26972
Country Morocco
 • GovernorMhamed Haddan
 • MayorMohamed Said al-Alami
564 m (1,850 ft)
 • Total42,786
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)

Overview on the founding of Chefchaouen and the main related historical eventsEdit

The city was founded in 1471[1] as a small kasbah (fortress) by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, a descendant of Abd as-Salam al-Alami and Idris I, and through them, of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Al-Alami founded the city to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco.[2] Along with the Ghomara tribes of the region, many Moriscos and Jews settled here after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.[3] After eight years of the creation of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco the Spanish Army could effectively take Chaouen, when General Dámaso Berenguer occupied the city on 14 October 1920.[4]

Following the 1924 retreat of the Spanish army from the city [es],[4] Chaouen was part of the Republic of the Rif (led by Abd el-Krim el-Khattabi) from 1924 to 1926.[5]

In September 1925, in the middle of the Rif War, a rogue squadron of American volunteer pilots, the Lafayette Escadrille, including veterans of World War I, bombarded civilians in Chaouen.[6] Colonel Charles Sweeney had proposed the idea to French Prime Minister Paul Painlevé, who "warmly welcomed the Colonel's request."[7]

After al-Khattabi was defeated with the help of the French, he was deported to Réunion. The Spanish Army retook the city in 1926.[4]

"Ali Ben Rashid" was born in "Gherzoim", a small villlage  in the neighborhood of Chefchaouen around 844 AH / 1440 AD, and he went to Andalusia in 864 AH / 1460 AD, and achieved outstanding great services for the King of Granada during the war time against the Crusaders. The prince "Ali Ben Rashid" became an experienced warrior, and returned to his country and settled in Chefchaouen, where his cousin "Al Hassan Ben Abi Juma'ah" resided in about the year 869 AH / 1465 AD. The experience that the Prince “Ali Ben Rashid” acquired in Andalusia was a reason to be chosen by his cousin “Ben Abi Juma’ah” as his successor, and thus he became the leader of the “Mujahideen” in the northwest of Morocco. The prince “Ali Ben Rashid” fought alongside the Emir of Tetouan “Ali Al-Mandhari", who later became his son-in-law after he married his daughter, the MujahidaAisha Al-Hurra”. This later reigned Chefchaouen with a remarkable development. Some historiographers showed that the Prince “Ali Ben Rashid” died in 917 AH / 1511 AD, while others reported his death in 922 AH / 1516 AD. Chefchaouen remained steadfast for several decades before falling under Spanish occupation in 1920, and colonization in 1926.[8] [2] [3] [4]

Chefchaouen played a central role in hosting Andalusian families between 1492 and 1609 after JC, date of the expulsion of the last Moriscos from Andalusia by The King Felipe III. These different Andalusian families built their own residential quarters surrounded by walls, following the Andalusian architectural style, very similar to the Arab quarters of Granada.[8] [5]

Shortly before and after the fall of Granada, between 1992 AD until 1609 AD, many of its people left and immigrated to different countries, especially Morocco. Some of them chose the large cities of Fes, Marrakesh, Tlemcen, Tunis, and Kairouan, while others settled in the jihadist fortress of Chefchaouen, which was in a fierce war against the Portugal armies. They established their quarters on the rugged slopes of Chefchaouen Mountains. In a few decades, the fortress of Chefchaouen turned into a prosperous new city, which was the cradle of merging of Andalusian/Granadian culture with culture of the inhabitants of "Ghomara". The urban expansion included the construction of a number of mosques and military fortifications such as walls and about ten gates, in addition to the Great Mosque.[8] [6] [7] [8]

After their expulsion from Andalusia and the fall of Islamic caliphate in the Middle Ages, many Moriscos and Jews settled in Chefchaouen, which experienced an expansion during more than three centuries with the settlement of immigrants from Andalusia. There is no doubt that the Andalusian community that settled in the city included a number of well-known poets and philosophes.[8] [9]

General characteristics of Chefchaouen provinceEdit

A typically blue-rinsed hamam in Chefchaouen

Geographical localization and reliefEdit

Localization of Chefchaouen province in the northwestern Morocco.

The city of Chefchaouen, also called “Chaouen” by the inhabitants of the northern region, is located at an altitude of about 600 m above sea level (a.s.l.), at the foothills of "Kalaa" Mountain in the western part of the Rif Mountain range (northwestern Morocco). The province of Chefchaouen is among the largest in Morocco with an area of 3,443 Km2.It is bordered by five provinces including the province of Tetouan to the northwest, the province of Larache to the west, the province of Al Hoceima to the east, the province of Taounate to the south, the province of Ouazzane to the southwest, and the Mediterranean Sea to the northeast. The province of Chefchaouen belongs to the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region and consists of one urban commune (the municipality of Chefchaouen) and 27 rural communes giving the province a rural feature.

The famous traditional door, a symbol of Chefchaouen city.

The nickname “Chefchaouen” is of “Tarifit or Tamazigh” origin, derived from the word “Isakon” or “Echaouen” which refers to “the horns” and the word “Chef” which means “look at”. Chefchaouen means, thus, “look at the horns”, reflecting the two mountain peaks prevailing over the area. Nowadays, Chefchaouen, is known as “the Blue Pearl” of Morocco. It is one of the famous Moroccan cities worldwide, well-known by its traditional houses painted in blue and white giving its alleyways a peaceful and charming sensations.[10]

Chefchaouen's blue walls are a popular subject of interest. There are several theories as to why the walls were painted blue. One popular theory is that the blue keeps mosquitos away. The blue is said to symbolize the sky and heaven, and serve as a reminder to lead a spiritual life.[9] However, according to some locals, the walls were mandated to be painted blue simply to attract tourists at some point in the 1970s.[10]

Localization of Chefchaouen town in the foothills of Jbel Kalaa

Chefchaouen Mountains are formed by very rugged siliceous and limestone layers, with peaks sometimes exceeding 2000 m a.s.l. such as the peaks of “Jbel Lakraa” (2,159 m a.s.l.) and “Jbel Tissouka” (2,122 m a.s.l.) in the rural commune of “Bab Taza”, as well as “Jbel Tizirane” (2.106 m a.s.l.)  in the rural commune of “Bab Berred”. In addition to its mountainous aspect, the province is also privileged by important coastal sites on the Moroccan Mediterranean coast; such as Jebha, Kaa-Asras, Chmaala, and Stehat.

Chefchaouen and its surroundings were historically and geographically known as the "Jbala" region or country (i.e. mountains inhabitants) where many "Jbala" tribes have lived a long time ago. The Jbala region was officially described at the beginning of the XXth century as a geographical territory corresponding to the foothills of the southwestern Rif, between the massifs of the central Rif (altitudes generally exceed 1500 m a.s.l.) and the pre-Rif domain (extend to the south of Ouergha between 200 and 600 m a.s.l.).[11][12]

Chefchaouen has maintained strong relations with the inhabitants of the “Jbala” region such as “Akhmas”, “Ghomara”, “Ghazaoua” and “Sanhaja” tribes, particularly in terms of trade. The federations of these great tribes were sometimes a source of strength, and sometimes a weakness due to their frequent struggles to take possession of wealth sources such as water sources, grazing areas and fertile lands.[13]

Illustrations of the typical blue facades of Chefchaouen city

The typical houses of Chefchaouen were made of stone, brick, tile, wood, soil and lime. Each house has an open yard in the center surrounded by corridors and bedrooms. The yards are often decorated with fruit trees such as oranges, lemons, berries and grapes, as well as some perfumed shrubs including the night-blooming jessamine (Cestrum nocturnum) and Jasmine (Jasminum officinale). From physiognomy perspective, the city is influenced by the Andalusian architecture such as the shape of curved brick forming the arches that strengthening the houses and decorating the bleu narrow alleyways, the traditional pipe network that provide houses with water, and the gardening know-how well visible inside houses and mosques. From cultural perspective, many famous Chefchaouen’s families have inherited the art of Andalusian music. Certainly, the Andalusian families who arrived and settled in Chefchaouen have conserved the Andalusian music as one of their important intangible cultural heritage, which becomes the main ritual of Chefchaouen religious festivals and social ceremonies.[8]

The rural landscape inherited from previous centuries was characterized by a tribal distribution of space according to intra- and intertribal relations. At the level of each dshar (i.e. sparse density of settlements characterizing the countryside), the houses are built around a mosque or a marabou and occupies the center of the concentric spatial structure of traditional agro-sylvo-pastoral systems. This spatial distribution of dshars is tightly associated with arable land and availability of water resources. All around extend shifting cultivation limited to the exterior by a diffuse strip of matorrals and pastures that mark the transition to forests. However, this traditional agro-sylvo-pastoral system has been deeply affected by multiple processes of modern socio-cultural and economic transformations.[14]


The province of Chefchaouen has a Mediterranean climate characterized by rainy and cool winters extended from October to April, and dry and hot summers extended from May to September. The average annual rainfall is around 880 mm, but it remains variable depending on the altitude and the proximity to the coast. For instance, rainfall could reach 1,400 mm/year or even 2,000 mm/year, snowfall is usually expected over the mountains peaks of Chefchaouen. Likewise, temperature remains influenced on one hand by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the other hand, by the altitude and winds, but generally, the mean annual temperature is around 16.6 °C.

Natural potentialitiesEdit


Natural forests cover an area around 118,957 ha and are dominated by natural broad-leaved trees which constitute almost 72.2% of all tree species. Forest formations are distributed according to local variations of climate and soil, which are to altitude, lithology, as well as to human activity. There are sclerophyllous oaks such as cork oak (Quercus suber), holm oak (Q. rotundifolia) and kermes oak (Q. coccifera), deciduous oaks such as tauzin oak (Q. pyrenaica) and zeen oak (Q. canariensis and Q. faginea), and natural coniferous forests such as Maghreb maritime pine (Pinus pinaster var. maghrebiana), Moroccan fir (Abies maroccana) and Atlas cedar (Cedrus atlantica).[14]

Therefore, the province of Chefchaouen is considered as one of richest regions in term of biological diversity thanks to its geographic, climatic and orographic characteristics. It is designated as part of the Mediterranean biodiversity “hotspots” of biodiversity (i.e. zones with an exceptional concentration of endemic and threatened species). However, the province is suffered from accelerated forest degradation due to anthropogenic pressures exacerbated by the impact of climate change. As mitigation measures, two protected areas have been created in the province of Chefchaouen. These measures aimed to protect the high biodiversity and stop the degradation process threatening natural resources:[15][16]

Moroccan fir forest within the Talassemtane National Park.

Talassemtane National Park, created in 2004, covers an area about 60,000 ha extending largely (80%) over the province of Chefchaouen. The Park, extends over the eastern part of the limestone ridge of the central-western Rif. It is the most particular landscape in Morocco, individualized by the beauty of its scenery and its remarkable richness of biodiversity. The mountain tops in domes or peaks overlooking the Chefchaouen city provide, majestic cliffs and deep and narrow gorges. It is a mountainous park characterized by a steep orography, making its accessibility very limited (75% of the Park area has slopes greater than 20%). The main objective of creating this Park is to protect the endemic Moroccan fir forest, mainly extended in Bab Taza commune. This Park hosts hundreds of vegetal species of which, several are endemic, rare, or threatened such as Atlas cedar, black pine (Pinus nigra subsp. mauretanica), and Maghreb maritime pine. In terms of fauna, there are 37 mammal species including the threatened Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus), the otter (Lutra lutra), more than 117 birds including some rare or very rare raptors, and around thirty species of reptiles and Amphibians.

A panoramic view from the future Natural Regional Park of Bouhachem.

The western part of the province provides another natural beauty; the Regional Park of Bouhachem, created in 2006 over an area of around 105,000 ha, overlapping three provinces; Chefchaouen, Tetouan, and Larache. It was created to preserve natural forests and restore related natural resources and services.

Moreover, to reinforce the protection actions of this natural heritage, the two Parks of Talassemtane and Bouhachem have been included, since 2006, in the Mediterranean Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of Spain and Morocco, established in the context of the Man and the Biosphere (MAN) program of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Furthermore and in the aim to preserve ecological services, develop the economic values and slow down the degradation processes threatening forest resources of the province, reforestation programs were carried out since 1966. Thus, until 2016, reforestation programs have generated 16,119 ha.[17]

Water resourcesEdit

Illustrations of water resources emerging from “Ras El Maa”.

The province of Chefchaouen has a great hydrological potential given the high rainfall received and its relief. Thus, the province is well known by its natural water sources (e.g. “Ras Al-Maa”, “Chrafat”, “Magou”) and several seasonal rivers that cross its landscapes such as Oued Fouara and Oued Qanar. Most of these streams flow into the Mediterranean or feed the Loukos and Ouargha rivers.[8]


According to the last census of Moroccan population (2014), the Chefchaouen province has more than 457,432 inhabitants representing 1.3% of Moroccan total population. The rural population in the province represents 87.45%.

Traditions and customs of Chefchaouen ceremoniesEdit

Chefchaouen is one of the regions that ennoble remarkable traditions, social customs, and religious rituals. Its residents are famous for their commitment to many religious and social rituals. It includes the celebrations of the two Eid prayers, the holy month of Ramadan, the memory of the birth of Muhammed, “Ashura”, “Moussems”, night of “Al-Qadr”, night of “Israa and Miraj”, “15 Shaa’ban”, and farewell and return of Pilgrims to Makah. They are keenn to perform prayer with the “Jama’aa” (i.e. together) in the mosque or in the “zaouia” (i.e. agglomeration of marabous), going with the funeral, wedding, believing in the Saints, the Righteous and the Courtesans, clinging and visits to their shrines, and being very keen on honor, chastity/purity, serenity, and excessive hygiene. Moreover, they are keen to visits their families and friends in religious and social occasions. The following are some of the rituals practiced by Chefchaouen people during the celebrations of some religious and social occasions: [11]

Sha’banah: It is an occasion that takes place on the 15th of Shaa’ban (i.e. the 8th month of Hijri calendar). it is commonly known as the Day of “Nusskhah”, in which the tomb of Moulay “Abd Salam Ben Mshish” is visited, and the students of “Msids” (i.e. Quran schools) in the town and the rural areas were keen to celebrate it. They recite the praises on Muhammad, and they cheer and grow up and pray to Muhammad. At the end, bring out the seals of the Quran by which they pray for mercy on the souls of the dead people of the region.

The night of Al-Qadr: (celebrated on the 26th of Ramadan in which the people of Chefchaouen encourage young girls, usually 7 to 10 years old, to fast on this day. The family usually celebrates it at home, but often goes outside in a joyful parade. The young girls fasting on this day wear the wedding clothes, and accompanied by their family members march through the city streets after the afternoon prayer.

The Day of “Ashura”: celebrated on the 10th of Muharram. It is an important historical event for Muslims as well as for Jews. The preparation for the “Ashura” celebration begins after Eid Al-Adha, where part of the Eid meat is conserved in the form of “Qaddid” (i.e. dried meat) specifically for this day, where it is eaten with couscous in an intimate family atmosphere. Children also receive great attention from their parents during this occasion, as they are eagerly waiting for buying new toys (such as types of plastic masks, folk costumes, tambourines, flutes and firecrackers, as well as some modern toys such as guns, water and automatic pistols, swords,...) and dolls. It is impossible to imagine “Ashura” without this important tradition. During the week prior to this day, parents take their children to the markets to choose their favorite toys which will be hidden until the day of “Ashura”. On this special day, the children of each district bring out their toys and join each other in an unparalleled joy atmosphere, and they play until late night. It is also an occasion when children get a few dirhams from parents and neighbors and they call it "Ashura's Baraka" (i.e. blessing). Moreover, another important phenomenon associated with adult rituals, is the heavy demand for the acquisition of dried fruits (almonds, walnuts, raisins, and pistachios), dates and various traditional sweets, which are widely consumed during this day.

Mawlid Nabaoui (Muhammad's birthday): Celebrated on the 12th of Rabii’ Al-Awwal. It is he most important aspects of the celebration of this religious anniversary (designated also as Eid) are manifested in the reading of the Quran, with the recitation of “Amdah” (i.e. religious songs without music and praises) and prayers upon Muhammad, and narrating its biography and its merits through knowledge assemblies in the Mosques or people houses. This night is also celebrated in the mausoleum of the city's founder, "Ali Ben Rashid" and the “zaouias” scattered throughout the city (counting for 13 zaouias), in which couscous is served to the poor people as well as to prisoners in the civil prison, and the Charity House in the city. Tea and traditional sweets are distributed to the attendees. During this celebration, mass circumcision of children is carried out after the afternoon prayer of this day, and gifts are distributed to their families donated by the rich people of the city.

Hakouzah” Day: Celebrated by the Chefchaouen people on the 1st January of the agricultural solar calendar. It is characterized by the preparation of various traditional foods. The people gathered their children at night around a sieve filled with dried figs and raisins, walnuts, fried chickpeas, and sometimes pomegranates, which will be distributed by the mother to each one of the family members enclosed around this sieve. It is also distributed in some areas to orphaned and poor children as an expression of the bounties of the past year’s crop, and their hope that the New Year will be better. It was and still practiced in Andalusia and it is called YANNAYER Night. Some researchers believe that the word “Hakouzah” is distorted from the Moroccan dialect “Agouza” (meaning the old women). Thus, it is used to refer, in the ancient oral culture, to the last night of the agricultural solar year on which Moroccan people depended in the agricultural calendar, and since it is the last night of the year, it is hence the old night.

Despite the diversity of these ceremonies, they meet in some characteristics that are almost present in all of Morocco not only in Chefchaouen. They are related to the preparations that precede these ceremonies, whether religious or social, such as cleaning houses, re-painting the walls, and whitewashing their external facades with white lime and a little indigo and prepare delicious traditional sweets.

Chefchaouen wedding: It is impossible to talk about the ceremonial customs of Chefchaouen people without mentioning their special wedding customs and rituals, from preparation to the days after the wedding. The wedding is preceded by the marriage contract (called “Mlak”) for a period that usually does not exceed a year. It takes place in the house of the bride’s family, in the presence of two justices, and the bride’s family with some close friends. The “Mahr” (i.e. the dowry) is given by the bridegroom to the bride’s father. The marriage celebration usually begins on Wednesday and ends on Friday. For the bride, there is also the “Dhor” (i.e. noon) ceremony.

Moreover,Hammam or Henna” ceremony: takes place on the day preceding the wedding. The bride invites a group of her unmarried family girls and friends to go with her to the “Hammam” (traditional public bathroom). Then, the procession returns to the bride’s house under shrills, chants, and sings, while she is wrapped in a white dress called the "white Hayik", without showing her face to passers-by.

Nzoul” ceremony (i.e. disembarkation): It represents the first day of the Chefchaouen wedding, and is considered as a celibacy farewell ceremony, as it is limited to inviting family and friend girls of the bride, excluding women, excepting those close to the bride, such as sisters and aunts. During this night, the bride wears a white robe, and her face is covered with transparent apparel that hides her tears, which reflect the feelings of joy at her marriage as well as her sadness at leaving her family. Under the rhythms of praises that are sung by the “Chefchaouen Hadra”, the bride’s sister or a girl of her family does what is called “fal”, where cotton is placed on her fingers to put a little henna on it, then another cotton is placed on top, and the hands are covered with an embroidered silk headgear, under the shrills and prayer upon Muhammad.

“The Hadra of Chefchaouen” is considered one of the city’s special singing arts. It is a kind of ancient Sufi chanting performed by authentic women’s groups that sing poetry and prophetic praises in religious occasions. There is hardly any wedding ceremony without the presence of Hadra.

Dhor” ceremony: It is called so because during this day the bride shows her face to the girl and women attending the ceremony, and she wears the Chefchaouen “Shedda” (a characteristic traditional dress for the Chefchaouen bride), accompanied with her “Ziana” (i.e. hairdresser). This later presents the bride to the invitees and she is responsible for the smallest details related to the bride’s dress and hairstyles, as well as helping her to walk through and sit in center of the invitees. This day is exclusively reserved for women and girls (men do not attend it). The party continues until midnight.

Al-Bouja” ceremony: It is held separately in the house of the groom and the bride, where family, close friends, and neighbors gather. It is characterized by the presence of the “Al-Ghaita and Tbel” group (a folkloric music group formed by a set of musician men that play on two main instruments: flute “Ghaita” and drum “Tbel”. At the end of the day of “Al-Bouja”, the groom sends a group of his family and close friends to bring the bride from her family’s house in “Al-Bouja”. It is a kind of “Howdah” or a small woody room transported by four persons - usually carried by the bride’s elder brother with the help of friends and neighbors in a joyful procession with sings, shrills and prayers for Muhammad. The procession is preceded by two young girls carrying candles and led by a musical group, while the friends of the groom's family are behind the "Al-Bouja". Her mother-in-law would receive the bride, offering her milk with dates, as a symbol of affection and love.

In the morning, the bride's family returns to visit and congratulate the couple, accompanied with a breakfast that includes delicious traditional sweets and gifts. The mother of the groom usually presents a golden gift to the bride.

Two days later, the day of the "meeting" will be between the families of the couple in the groom's house. The groom gives to the bride’s mother a "sbnia" of silk (i.e. veil), “harraz” (i.e. traditional belt), and “sherbel” (i.e. slippers).

In fact, these Chefchaouen wedding rituals and traditions have experienced many changes as a result of the immigrants and the holders of new traditions, as well as the intermarriage that took place between the Chefchaouen families and the arrival families in recent decades

Economic activitiesEdit

Agricultural and maritime fishing activitiesEdit

Illustrations of fruit plantations in the environs of Chefchaouen.

Despite the significant rainfall amount being received in the province, the agricultural activity is disadvantageous in Chefchaouen due to its rugged and steep topography, the scarcity of arable land or fertile soils, the low mechanization level, and lack of irrigation. These factors have contributed to the emergence of traditional agriculture largely dependent on climatic hazards. However, the forests of the province have favored the development of forest products and they have been cleared to obtain agricultural lands. Villagers from rural areas around Chefchaouen formed an important workforce in the agricultural field.[17]

The province is dominated by cereal agriculture, goat breeding on the summits and arboriculture of fig and almond trees: [17]

Cereal cultivation: Occupying an area around 23,100 ha, cereal crops are the most predominant in the province;[17]

Legumes: Legumes are cultivated over an area around 3,220 ha. Beans and broad beans are the most widely cultivated since they occupy more than ¾ of the area devoted to this type of crop;[17]

Vegetable and forage crops: are cultivated over an area of about 180 ha;[17]

Fruit arboriculture: fruit tree plantations cover approximately 52,013 ha, producing 654,930 quintals of fruit. The olive tree remains the most widespread with 83% of the areas devoted to this type of culture, representing 66% of the total production.[17]

In fact, fields of olive and fig trees occupy a large area among the predominant plantations in the region, in addition to cereal fields and limited grazing. This traditional agro-pastoral system has been an inherited activity for centuries. Local products are also diversified, such as fresh goat cheese and other animal products, medicinal and aromatic plants, products based on wild olives, figs, wool, etc. These various resources and agricultural experience models has contributed to a great richness of food diversity. Thanks to the "Mediterranean Diet" which is part of the Human heritage, Chefchaouen city has been declared as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by the UNESCO in 2010. According to the UNESCO press release: “The "Mediterranean Diet" is characterized by a nutritional model that has remained constant over time and whose main ingredients are olive oil, cereals, fresh or dried fruits and vegetables, a limited proportion of fish, dairy products and meat, and many condiments and spices". Thus, the UNESCO recognized Chefchaouen as a symbol of the “Mediterranean Diet” to acknowledge its richness and specific food traditions as well as the diversity of local products that reflect the healthy food culture traded in the city under the name “from the landscape to the table".[12]

Animal productions: the production of red meat is estimated about 1,037.4 tons in 2016, of which 70% is beef, the rest regroup sheep and goat meats.[17][18]

In 2020, Chefchaouen has also been included in the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC, related to the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning - UIL) as "learning city". This Network aims to promote and improve lifelong learning practices in cities around the world. It encourages policy discussion and mutual learning between the listed cities, forges collaborations and develops abilities and designs tools that support and identify progress. Moroccan cities inscribed in this Network will not only share their experiences in education, training and research fields with other member cities, but also will constantly benefit from effective practices and fruitful experiences of other cities in these fields.[13] [14] [15]

Kaa-Asras coast

Maritime fishing: the fishing activity benefits from 120 km of the Mediterranean coasts which begins from Kaa-Asras to Jebha. During 2016, landings recorded by the National Fisheries Office of Jebha reached 2,166 tons of fish for a value of approximately MAD 14.3 million. The value of blue fish, with its large quantity (94.4% of all landings), constitutes the majority of the gathered value.[17]

The countryside around it has a reputation for being a prolific source of kief. The Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco. A nearby attraction is the Kef Toghobeit Cave, one of the deepest caves in Africa.[19]

Industry and commerceEdit

The industrial sector remains very weak despite the significant potentialities of the provincial related to the availability of human and natural resources. The commercial sector is considered as one of the main economic supports of Chefchaouen thanks to the tourism activity and Moroccan immigrates. The commerce is mainly focused in urban center and the main rural communes (e.g. Bab Taza) as well as in the 24 weekly souks spread over the province. This activity is mainly based on the sale of traditional food products, construction materials, clothing and household items. Commercial transactions become dynamic during summer, which is related to the massive influx of tourists and the return of immigrates to the province.[17]


A souvenir from Chaouen

The beauty of Chefchaouen's mountainous surroundings are enhanced by the contrast of the brightly painted medina (old town). The main square in the medina is lined with cafes and filled to the brim with locals and tourist mingling easily. Tourism in Chaouen is also driven by its reputation as center of the marijuana plantations region in north Morocco. During the summer approximately 200 hotels cater to the influx of European tourists.[citation needed]

An example of a mountainous hotel in the rural commune of Bab Taza

In recent years, the city has become an important touristic destination in northern Morocco. It knows during the holidays a considerable influx of Moroccan and foreign tourists, attracted by its natural landscapes and historical monuments. In spite of being characterized by its seasonal aspect during summer, tourism occupies an interesting place among economic activities in Chefchaouen. Indeed, the province is considered as a favorite destination of tourists thanks to its diversified natural potentialities (i.e. mountains, forests, and beaches). It has a special charm through its preserved medina, its typical blue-white facades making it one of the most beautiful Moroccan medinas, the narrow streets of the “Bab Souk” district or the interior gardens of the "Kasbah", and its ramparts and towers illustrate the history of this city. [16] [17] [18] [19]

Many famous sites constitute the main touristic destinations such as the famous bridge of God in “Akchour”, the source of “Ras Al-Maa”, the Talassemtane National Park and the future Regional Park of Bouhachem. Among the most important of these places are:

"Ras Al-Maa" source

Ras Al-Maa (i.e. the mountainous spring of water): Chefchaouen is considered the donation of “Ras Al-Maa” which supported people live, development and persistence. It is the main resource for water provision to the population. From the “Ras Al-Maa”, rivulets branch out and provision mosques, houses, zaouias, hammams, fountains, hotels, farms, and gardens. Water mills intended for grinding grains are distributed near the rivulets. Among the traditions of people in the neighborhood of "Ras Al-Maa” river, women gather on the banks of the river to wash clothes and blankets, in funny atmosphere. It also became the most visited place by tourists.

The presence of this large number of these mills (flour and olive) confirms the existence of significant economic dynamism at the local level. These mills were established along the Chefchaouen valley (i.e. Ras El Maa), where the water flow is strong enough to allow such economic activities. The inhabitants of the city knew at the time the advanced exploitation of its local wealth. The use of hydropower to grind various types of cereals and some legumes has helped to achieve high self-sufficiency in the supply of raw materials such as cereals (durum wheat, corn, barley, etc). It has also helped to create permanent employment opportunities for the local workforce.

The central garden of Chefchaouen town.

The Medina (old town): It represents one of the most important historical monuments, where the blue and white paints dominates the walls and houses, and its streets are so narrow that cars cannot pass through, which provide a peaceful and calm atmosphere.

The "Kasbah": the first nucleus of Chefchaouen town.

The "Kasbah": It is considered one of the first buildings constructed in the city following the Andalusian style. This monument included the Emir residence, a small mosque for the Emir, a prison, a garden, a horse stable, sheds for the animals and dozens of towers. The Kasbah played a major role as a house of "Makhzen" (i.e. authoritarian forces) until its occupation by the Spanish in 1920. The Kasbah was built from strong and sustainable local raw materials such as limestone, with successive layers of hard rammed earth. Fired red bricks were used to build the sides of the doors and arches. The best local wood from cedar, fir, juniper and others was used to form the roofs, in addition to the use of solid red tiles in the ceilings of the exterior. The Kasbah overlooks the yard "Outae Hammam".

The Great Mosque with its octagonal minaret overlooking the "Outae Hammam" yard.

The Great Mosque: It is one of the most important monuments of Chefchaouen and located close to the "Kasbah". It was built by Moulay “Muhammad Ben Ali” in 969 AH during the reign of the “Beni Rashid” family. The mosque consists of a nave (i.e. open yard of the mosque center) and a prayer hall, with a fountain in the middle. It extends over 1500 m2, and has four doors, with a Quran school. This mosque was built following the Andalusian style and is characterized by its large area and an octagonal minaret overlooking the "Outae Hammam" yard. The Great Mosque was renovated in the seventeenth century AD. The city's oldest and historically most important mosque is the Great Mosque located at Place "Outae Hammam" at the heart of the medina.[20] On a hill overlooking the town to the east there is also a disaffected mosque built by the Spanish in the 1920s, now a popular lookout point.[21]

View of "Outae Hammam" yard in the center of Chefchaouen town.

The yard of “Outae Hammam”: It is the main and biggest yard of the old Medina with more than 4000 m2. Its name is derived from “Outae” which means low ground or yard and “Hammam” due to the presence of the first Hammam (traditional public bathroom) in the center of the town. Its design is similar to the Andalusian public yards of Granada or Cordoba. It is the most important place from historical and touristic points of view due to its position as a crossroad. However, its historical function changed to a main touristic center surrounded by cafes and restaurants. The quarter of “Souiqah”: It is the second oldest residential agglomeration in Chefchaouen, including houses of Andalusian families who have lived in the quarter since ancient times. This quarter is characterized by the dominance of white and blue colors like the rest of the old city quarters. It is also known by a large number of shops and stalls that sell local products.

Bab Souk (on the left) and Bab AlAin (on the right)

The traditional souk: It contains a lot of traditional industries such as colorful porcelain utensils, textiles and clothing, specific Moroccan leathern slippers and various souvenirs. The weekly market, which was held on Friday and Monday and then turned to Thursday and Monday, was a place for strengthening social ties between the townspeople and its rural environment.

The district of “Al-Kharazin”, with a rural character, is among the most important districts of the old Medina. Many villagers from neighboring tribes settled there, in particular the “Akhammas” and “Ghomara” tribes, who largely contributed to the reconstruction of the Chefchaouen town.

A panoramic view of Chefchaouen town situated within a mountainous area.

Chefchaouen Mountains: They belong to the Rif Mountain range and constitute the destination of guided excursions. These mountains are characterized by a rich flora, especially the forests of cork oak, green oak, endemic Moroccan fir and Atlas cedar...

The cascades of "Akchour" are one of the important water resources around Chefchaouen area.

The cascades of "Akchour": It is a mountainous area penetrated by many waterfalls, located 29.2 km from Chefchaouen town.

In terms of accommodation, Chefchaouen encompasses in 2016, 68 hotels, including 17 classified hotels, with a capacity of 1,796 beds, including 720 beds for classified hotels. Tourists are of different nationalities, of which Moroccans represent 49%, followed by Russians with 10.9% then the Japanese with 9.2% and the Spanish with 7.8%.

Handicraft sectorEdit

The handicraft sector or traditional industry (e.g. sewing, cupping, blacksmithing, carpentry, needlework, and tanning) is the most economic activities practiced by Chefchaouen population and thus plays key socio-economic roles in this province. It is closely related to the tourism sector, and includes a multitude of artisans (38 cooperatives and 688 artisan adherents in 2016) who excel in the handcrafts, particularly leather, textile, ironwork and traditional carpentry. Wood products represent the best-selling artisanal product in the province, representing 57.6% of the quantity of products sold.[8][17] [20]

Illustrations of some artisanal products sold on the Medina quarters.

Villagers from neighboring regions of Chafchaouen practiced crafts and various arduous trades such as knitting, tanning, construction, and weaving.

To summarize,

Chefchaouen shown from “Sidi Abdelhmid” site

Over more than five centuries since its foundation, Chefchaouen, the blue city, still retains its originality and ancient characteristics, especially with regard to the Amazigh-Arab Islamic cultures, with its distinctive architecture influenced by the Andalusian character, its blue-white paint, and its like-museum shops. Chefchaouen city hosts distinctive tourist places that make it an important destination for tourism in Morocco. Gardens and parks provide a special atmosphere of calm and relaxation. Its localization in the midst of the Mountains adds a special aesthetic value,. In addition to the predominance of diverse rural landscapes, Chefchaouen is also distinguished by its richness in various skills and traditions related to agriculture, conservation and management of natural resources and traditional culinary arts. Besides their fondness for Sufism, Chefchaouen people still preserve the religious and social traditions and customs inherited from their ancestors, and this is evident in all their celebrations and ceremonies.

International relationsEdit

List of twin towns and sister cities include:

Notable peopleEdit


References and notesEdit

  1. ^ A history of the Maghreb in the Islamic period
  2. ^ Fiche technique de la Grande Mosquée de Chefchaouen Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine (in French), شفشاون Archived 2007-02-08 at the Wayback Machine (in Arabic)
  3. ^ España y Marruecos, ejemplos de Interculturalidad a través de la lengua - by Francisco Moscoso García
  4. ^ a b c González Vázquez, Araceli (2011). "Las ciudades santas y prohibidas de Marruecos: La santidad, la sacralidad y la impenetrabilidad de Chefchauen en los textos coloniales españoles y franceses". In Gómez Pellón, Eloy; González Vázquez, Araceli (eds.). Religión y patrimonio cultural en Marruecos. Una aproximación antropológica e histórica. Seville: Signatura Ediciones. pp. 279–280. ISBN 978-84-96210-98-1.
  5. ^ García, Pablo (29 June 2012). "El Rif en dos colores". El País.
  6. ^ "History : When an American squadron violated US neutrality laws, bombing Chefchaouen". Retrieved 2019-07-14.
  7. ^ Roberts, Charley, 1948- author. (2017-09-08). Charles Sweeny, the man who inspired Hemingway. ISBN 978-1476669946. OCLC 1011663811.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b c d e f g بوشمال فاطمة، شفشاون حاضرة شريفة بملامح أندلوسية وقسمات جبلية، مجلة المناهل، العدد 98، ص 121-148، مطبعة دار المناهل، الرباط، 2020.
  9. ^ "Chefchaouen: Walking the blue streets of Morocco". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  10. ^ Philippe Saharoff; Sabine Bouvet (2002). Living in Morocco. Flammarion. p. 16. ISBN 978-2-08-010878-4. The color blue is what remains most strongly in the memory of visitors to Chefchaouen. Blue is omnipresent, on doors, walls, staircases, and archways...
  11. ^ Fay G., 1979. L’évolution d’une paysannerie montagnarde : les Jbalas Sud-Rifains. Méditerranée 1-2 : 81-91.
  12. ^ Lazarev, G. Quelques (2013). hypothèses sur les dynamiques de peuplement du Rif occidental. Critique économique, 30 : 143-175.
  13. ^ Taïqui, L., & Martín Cantarino, C. (1997). Eléments historiques d’analyse écologique des paysages montagneux du Rif Occidental (Maroc). Mediterránea. Serie de Estudios Biológicos, 23–35.
  14. ^ a b Taïqui, L. (2005). Evolution récente de la structure du paysage du Bassin de Chefchaouen (1958-1986). In G.R.G.Rif Ed. Mutations des milieux ruraux dans les montagnes rifaines (Maroc), Série Etudes Spatiales (2), 1–19.
  15. ^ Médail, F., & Quézel, P. (1997). Hot-Spots Analysis for Conservation of Plant Biodiversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 84(1), 112–127.
  16. ^ Royaume du Maroc 2005. Parc Naturel De Talassemtane. Evaluation de la Biodiversité et Suivi des habitats. Projet : Developpement Participatif Des Zones Forestieres Et Peri-Forestieres De La Province De Chefchaouen. MEDA/MAR/B7-4100/IB/98/0532. Assistance Technique.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k HCP (Haut-Commissariat au Plan), (2018). Monographie Rovinciale de Chefchaouen. Direction Régionale de Tanger-Tétouan- Al Hoceima, 105 p.
  18. ^ Chebli, Y., Chentouf, M., Ozer, P., Hornick, J., & Cabaraux, J. (2018). Forest and silvopastoral cover changes and its drivers in northern Morocco. Applied Geography, 101, 23–35.
  19. ^ McWhirter, ed.: Norris (1977). Guinness book of records (24th ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatioes Ltd. p. 62. ISBN 090042480X.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Touri, Abdelaziz; Benaboud, Mhammad; Boujibar El-Khatib, Naïma; Lakhdar, Kamal; Mezzine, Mohamed (2010). Le Maroc andalou : à la découverte d'un art de vivre (2 ed.). Ministère des Affaires Culturelles du Royaume du Maroc & Museum With No Frontiers. ISBN 978-3902782311.
  21. ^ "Spanish Mosque | Chefchaouen, Morocco Attractions". Lonely Planet. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  22. ^ A resolution of the city council of Issaquah, Washington, establishing Chefchaouen, Morocco as Issaquah's newest sister city. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-04-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Chaouen está hermanada con Vejer de la Frontera (Cádiz), que a su vez estuvo bajo el dominio musulmán durante cinco siglos.
  24. ^ viendo Chaouen desde lejos podríamos pensar que se trata de uno de los pueblos blancos de la Serranía de Ronda. De hecho esta ciudad está hermanada con Ronda.[1] Archived 2007-05-03 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ "Associacao Nacional Municipios Portgugueses". Retrieved 2020-02-16.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 35°10′17″N 5°16′11″W / 35.17139°N 5.26972°W / 35.17139; -5.26972