The pinky-orange walls of the restored Kasbah, directly at the centre of activity in the Medina's Plaza Uta el-Hammam are pretty difficult to miss. In fact its walls act as a border to almost the whole of one side of the square.
Inside the Kasbah you'll find a rather large, pretty courtyard, with bushes flowering in purples and yellows. This makes a really nice place to sit for a while, or to just walk around a little if you feel like being outside but just want some peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle.
Also inside the walls of the Kasbah you'll find some prison cells, complete with chains still hanging from the walls - you may have to resist the photo opportunity. There are some great views over the square and beyond from the Kasbah's tower, as well as a small gallery in one corner of the courtyard containing modern works of art by local artists. This stuff is of varying quality, but is worth checking out as there are a couple of excellent pieces in more abstract styles.
In addition, a small ethnographic museum and the Centre for Andalucian Studies is also contained within the Kasbah's grounds.
A rather smelly toilet is located left of the museum in the grounds (bearing no relation to where they are on the map of the grounds which caused me some distress as I desparately searched around at bursting point...) - btw, bring your own loo paper. Signs also suggest that there is a cafe in the grounds but I'm guessing this is only in the summer months.
The Kasbah is open daily except Tuesday until 6pm, though closed between 1pm and 3pm and is worth the 10dh entry.
The centre of Chefchaouen's medina is the Place Outa el Hammam, a longish open space with the orange walls of the Kasbah on one side and a row of tourity restaurants lining the other, a large tree providing shade in the centre. The restaurants aren't amazing in terms of food, but they are great places to stop for a mint tea and to watch the goings on in the place. Unfortunately, some of the restaurant owners are incredibly pushy and rude, with one screaming abuse at us over two days as he saw us walk past his and into a rival restaurant. One cafe at the bottom end of the place was a fairly regular haunt of ours, as the food was good and the drinks always stayed the same price, and it is set slightly away from the other restaurants with a good view of the souk
Even sitting in a cafe or restaurant, you are not immune to being hassled. I didn't mind the lady who sold a type of local prefume in a block as she was friendly, and the man selling nuts was fine. The man who came to sell us a packet of Chinese green tea ("traditional Morocco tea") would not take no for an answer. We were eating at the time, and after several polite refusals, he was still there repeating his spiel, so we just started ignoring him and carrying on our conversation, hoping he'd go away. His next tactic was to start shouting that we were racists and Nazis because we didn't want to buy tea, while the waiters just stood in the background watching. We didn't eat out in the open again after that.
Some of the cafes attract a certain clientele, European visitors as well as locals, all smoking a certain substance, quite openly. Your nose will tell you which cafes these are. Police do parade up and down occasionally, but nobody seems to hide what they're doing.
The local ethnographic museum is contained in a building in the grounds of the Kasbah, on Plaza Uta el-Hammam, the Medina's main square and centre of activity.
While there isn't a whole lot to keep you occupied in this museum for longer than maybe 15 minutes, the place itself is pretty enough to walk around with a quaint little interior courtyard perfect for a bit of a photo opportunity. As tiny local museums go, this one has character and stayed in my mind.
A few wooden artefacts such as a sideboard and a couple of reconstructed scenes such as a weavers room are dotted about, while one room consists of slightly dated and faded photos reconstructing wedding photos in traditional dress. These struck me as being quite odd in a sense - the photos are meant to display traditional dress, but are posed uncomfortably by teenagers looking rather miserable, as if they've been roped into doing this against there better wishes. You spend more time looking at how uncomfortable the models are than the clothes. Plus, unless you're really into folk dress, they aren't otherwise that educational.
My favourite things here were on the top floor, just a few old grainy black and whites of the main square and the walls of the Kasbah back in the days of Spanish occupation showing just how much restoration has gone into the Kasbah and Plaza Uta el-Hammam, leading to the clearance of old ramshackle huts that used to line the Kasbah walls. Gives you an idea of how things used to be in Chefchaouen and just how much the place has probably been cleaned up over the years.
I purposely didn't take any photos of the actual exhibition spaces as for just 10dh entry to the Kasbah, it's worth supporting this small cultural endeavour up in the Rif Mountains.
The building is also home to an Andalucian Studies Centre, although this appeared closed when I was there and I'm not quite sure what its usual purpose is anyway.
Surrounding the town are the mountains by which it gets it name. Well actually, the mountains are called Rif, but the name chaouen or chefchaouen means something like 'look at the peaks' or something similar. I sound vague because there are a couple of different translations but this is the essential meaning.
Anyway, enough of the name stuff; while you are here you may wish to take a hike up the mountain paths. You can go it alone or easily find a guide in the town. It is a great alternative to just walking round the streets day after day if you are staying here for a few days.
Be careful when finding a guide though as everyone will offer but not everyone will be safe, cheap or good. Ask in your hotel if they can recommend a trustworthy person.
Somebody gave me a low rating on this tip and I don't know why as they didn't want to tell me (maybe they just didn't like my face in the photo!!). Anyway, I have added more info since then and I hope you find it useful. I think the person who gave it a low rating is someone who recommended travellers not to trust the guides as they were only out to rob you. My friends did it and had no problems, I suppose you have to be perceptive and make sure you don't pick just anyone on the street offering. I think the people there are more likely to con you before robbing you!!! They really didn't seem the robbing type in general. Just don't take your valuables with you or at least have them secured in a money belt and if you are a group of girls I'd think again (best to be on the safe side).
If you are fed up of fast food back home, why not try some VERY fresh food; so fresh it is still alive. On the Monday/Thursday market the streets are lined with people selling vegetables and live chickens.
Here there isn't much in the line of refrigeration so meat goes off quickly in the hot sun. One good solution if you live here, to making sure you eat good meat is to buy it live and kill it, prepare it and cook it yourself.
You can also see live goats being lead around the streets. Brought by the Berbers from the mountains and probably sold for milk.
The Berbers are easy to spot due to their special attire which always seems to be really thick, even in summer and brightly coloured. I shouldn't forget to mention their interesting hats which are also sold around town as souvenirs.
Found on the main square, Uta el-Hamman in the medina the 17th century Kasbah is probably the only typical activity in my things to do tips that you will find as there are not many museums or monuments to see here (just the living working town itself).
You can enter the Kasbah and the gardens for 1 € (10 dr). What you will find inside aren't the most spectacular things, but it is only a euro and it is pretty and interesting! We enjoyed ourselves taking photos. It is small so you don't need a lot of time to do this activity! Maybe 15-30 mins.
In my General Tips section you can see some photos taken from inside.
This is what the main market looked like on my first trip here. As you can see it doesn't look like the most pleasant thing to to while here, but at least it was a cultural experience.
Now in 2007/8 The market is being totally reformed so hopefully from now on it with be pleasant and cultural thing to do.
I do recommend going to visit the markets of Moroccan towns, not just to get some cheap bargains on brand name shoes but to see just how different it is, from the produce to the customs!
Chaouen is a quiet relaxed mountain VILLAGE, therefore there isn't really much to do here but walk around the streets and marvel at the blue alley ways and houses. It is very southern Spanish looking (Andalucia) with its tiles and things inherited from expelled Muslims from Spain. Though I think the blue washing gives it a far more stunning appearance than the typical Spanish white washing.
Along side the Al Kasbah on Plza Uta el-Hammam, you will find the mosque. Of course if you are not a Muslim you CAN NOT enter and it would be impolite to try.
My photo is from my first trip to Chaouen, nowadays it has been restored and repainted, though I kinda liked it the way it was. It looks more bland now. Although it wasn't spectacular before, at least it looked old and historical!
It was originally built in the 1400's.
Everywhere you go in Chaouen you won't see hardly any dogs but hundreds and hundreds of CATS! They are everywhere. Surprisingly many seem healthy and clean although they are not pets. The only problem is the terrace restaurants are filled with them too, many even jump up beside you while you eat.
Something Not to Do:
My advice is that although they look healthy and clean it is best no to touch them. If you decide to give a cat food in a restaurant be prepared for half the cat population of the town to try it within the next five minutes afterwards.
There are four more cat photos attached. Whether you like cats or not they can certainly add something different to the typical 'doorway' photo.
Chefchaouen is well known in Morocco and abroad for its narrow alleys with houses painted a deep shade of blue, and it is well worth spending a couple of hours getting lost, quite an easy thing to do. As well as being a maze of streets typical of a Moroccan medina, Chefchaouen is set on a steep slope, so that adds another dimension to it...just when you think you know where you are going, you realise that actually you no idea at all and are either too high up or too low down. Two or three of the main streets leading off the square are filled with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops (and touts a plenty), but if you take a set of steps up or down and turn a few corners, you can see how Chefchaouen probably used to be...a quiet, inward-looking town. As a general rule, the higher you climb, the quieter it becomes. Cars are of no use in the medina, but a few men zoom around on scooters...however, most shopkeepers stock their shops using donkeys, so don't be surprised to get stuck in a donkey jam.
The architecture at street level isn't amazingly exciting, but that's not really the point of Chefchaouen...you come for the blue streets. But if you can get access to a rooftop (most hotels have terraces, and if not, climb the kasbah tower), the town with its red-tiled roofs looks as if it could be somewhere in Spain. this was part of the Spanish protectorate not so long ago, but even before that, Chefchaouen like many northern towns has had strong connections with the Iberian peninsula, as many refugees fled here from Andalusia in the 15th century.
The Medina is the most important palce to visit once in this beautiful town. Great blue and white houses, unlike other medinas such as the ones in Fès or Tetouan, it's very easy to get around without getting lost, so, don't be afraid.
For more pictures, go to the travelogue.
On the east edge of town just outside the medina you can see the local 'laundry mat' where WOMAN wash their clothes like in times of old before the wonderful invention of washing machines.
It is a great reminder that we are very lucky to have such modern appliances which make our lives so much easier, and that many aren't as lucky as us. If we don't have one at home we can always take it to a place that does have machines. Here it means a lot of scrubbing and then carrying the wet heavy clothes up hill home.
On the plus side it is probably a highly social event.
There seemed to be a spring there too where women and young boys collected water in large bottles.
The town is full of Shops and stalls all selling the same sorts of things. Here are some of the most typical things you can find or may want to buy:
Water pipes and fruit flavoured 'tobacco' (about 6€- 12€ for the smaller ones)
Rugs, mats and covers. Especially the lovely blue ones you see as table cloths or chair covers in many restaurants such as in the photo along side. Prices vary from 10€ to 12€.
herbs and spices (very cheap)
earrings and jewellery in general
shoes (including Moroccan style leather shoes or western models in the market)
The city of Chefchaouen and its Kasbah were established in 1471 as a result of the Portugese occupation of Ceuta (Sebta ) in 1415. Moulay Ali Ben Rashed who founded the city to fight the Portuges. Along the city has also established a semi-independant state in Northern Morocco that initially did not recognize the central goverment in Fez. The city recieved waves of Adaulsian Immegrants after the fall of Granada, which helped the city to develop and flourish.
This Kasbah and the city was for a period of time the headquarter for another Moroccan National figur. His name was Abdul Kareen Al khattabi. He is the foundeer Al Reef Republic and fought against the Spanish occupation of Northern Morocco until the 1920.
Beisde the the garden and the Museum, The Kasbah has 3 towers, a presion and various other buildings. you can visit the prison and climb up one of the towers.