The Rif is a specialty for demanding travellers. The black diamond, or rather the blue diamond, is this city elixir in the middle of the mountains: Chefchaouen, the blue city. An unimaginable city founded four centuries ago by highly cultured emigrants from neighboring Andalusia. The result exceeds all dreams.
In the cedars, holm oaks and pines, largely irrigated by high-flow springs, a subtle interlocking of houses, mosques, passages, stairs gives the impression of going nowhere, subject to the omnipresence blue which gives the forms reliefs, softnesses and shades which are renewed each year. Unique but never uniform. We don't have the right to speak of an (aesthetic) miracle, but it's hard not to think about it. Even less to forget it when the road finds the great blue of the Mediterranean.
This was a major objective during my report on the Mediterranean coast, from Ceuta to Oujda. Easter, lights becoming clearer. I knew that this exceptional city was blue, but I didn't know that for my second stay, it would be so bright! Vacation time had allowed the schoolchildren to lend a hand: paintbrushes and brushes had fluttered over the walls built at the end of the 15th century, and the blue of Chefchaouen, a real registered trademark, had taken possession of the holy city. A city-sculpture, a speleologist's walk since everything is passage and vault, since it is a complex organism faithful to its memory but alive. Everything is blue, the ground, the walls, the sky, but offering infinite variations of a magic hue that multiplies. I was walking in the sky. For three days, I became a blue man, watching for the light that invents spaces. Almost immaterial silhouettes of a woman and her children returning from school. So it's not a dream...
If the mountains are not the highest in Morocco – Mount Tidighin only reaches 2,450 meters – they are the most hermetic. The valleys, separated from the Mediterranean or the Atlantic influence, can be very dry, even resembling the steppe. Very segmented, isolated universe, which forged the famous Rifain character.
Chefchaouen, the pearl of the Rif.
Beautiful day, night, under all lights. I had slept at the top to be sure not to miss anything. The eye riveted to the east until the sun begins to come out of its milky matrix. Suddenly everything is blue: so the famous blue of Chefchaouen comes from a dawn? The sky, the thick mist in the valleys, the city already luminous, as if lit from within. Perfect harmony. A recommendation: take the walk, because the city is installed on two horn-shaped peaks which give it its name.
Chefchaouen is a double labyrinth, vertical and horizontal. Inextricable but not disturbing. We change level without realizing it; you turn right, in fact you end up on the left. We lose all bearings, and the color complicates the game by depriving points that are easy to identify. It's a symphony in blue, for initiates. Closer at first glance to sculpture than to architecture. The young woman was waiting for her little brother who was going to leave school; I found them later on a walk, I obviously can't say where! In the big blue...
The name comes from Ech Chaoun, “the horns”, name of one of the two mountains on which leans the blue city, which culminate at more than two thousand meters. True capital of high religious culture, city of mosques, it was founded by Sharif Moulay Ali ben Rached in 1471, to make it a base to fight against Portuguese incursions. She retains a unique character.