Our tale of visiting Morocco’s ‘Blue Pearl’ can be read similarity to any travel blog you google about this increasingly popular, Instagrammer’s photo-dream city. We traveled by bus, stayed at a riad, tasted delicious cusine, and watched the sunset from the abandoned Spanish Mosque. However, we’ve a few unique twists and turns through Chefchaouen that brought us long-lasting friendships, gorgeous views, exhaustion, and memorable reunions.
Our visit to Chefchaouen, or “Chaouen” began by wandering within the center of the city’s blue-walled medina as we searched for our riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan home built around a central courtyard; many riads have been converted to hotels and hostels. Much the opposite of dirty, bustling Tangier, sleepy little Chaouen nestled at the base of the Rif Mountains offered us immediate peace. We explored empty streets admiring the various blue hues a’glow during the late afternoon’s golden hour of light.
To sample Morocco’s finest cusine, we learned how to cook it ourselves! We connected with Chef Rhani via AirBnB Experiences for our own, private cooking class. Rhani met us downtown in Chefchaouen and shopped with us at various vendors to select all of the ingredients for our meal. Rhani welcomed us into his home by introducing us to the hospitable art of pouring mint tea. For our meal, Rhani explained all the details and spice combinations as we prepared tajines. A tajine is a slow cooked, spiced dish of meat or vegetables. Rhani taught us to prepare chicken, beef meatball, and vegetable tajines. The spice combinations are different for each dish but the slow cooking process, in a specific tajine crock, remains the same.
Our evening with Rhani was splendid aside from one, unfortunate twist. Just as we were taking the tajines from the stove, anxious to taste our efforts, we were alerted by a neighbor from across the balcony that Rhani’s building was on fire. Yes, FIRE! We all peered over the balcony to see an electrical panel a’flame below. Rhani shut off the stove and gas, he grabbed his passport and secured the apartment as we hastily evacuated. Rhani alerted his neighbors on the way out while Brian and I fled directly to the street to watch the event unfold. Everyone evacuated safely. There are no smoke alarms in Rhani’s building, and nobody within a mile radius owned a fire extinguisher. The electrical panel sparked and spurted out of control as Brian and I watched, aghast. The scene was never exactly secure. Adults and children alike continued down the street, some stopping to stare and some continuing along seemingly unaware of the chaos. “This is Morocco,” Rhani repeated. Firemen arrived, parked directly in front of the electrical panel, and eventually put out the flames. “This is Morocco,” Rhani’s words echoed in our minds as we walked away thankfully that evening.
Beyond the walls of Chefchaouen, the Rif Mountains await!
We took a taxi approximately 45-minutes away from Chefchaouen to the trailhead accessing God’s Bridge and the Akchour Waterfall. It is entirely possible to view both sights during one, diligent afternoon; simply, retrace steps from God’s Bridge back to the trailhead and take the alternate trail toward the waterfalls. Pre-planning using Maps.Me informed us that this hike was possible via a loop. So, we set out determined to make a loop hike from God’s Bridge to Akchour waterfall.
We had fabulous weather and stunning views throughout the day. But our hike soon became precarious as we strolled through villages, took trails interlaced through terraced fields of marijuana, and briskly walked along dirt roads as valuable daylight hours dwindled. The pre-planned Maps.Me loop was NOT actually possible! A local guide confirmed this for us after we’d turned back toward a village to seek assistance. “It is too dangerous to access the waterfall from this direction,” the guide explained as he set us straight onto a new trail and called his friend Mohammad to greet us in the next village.
Chefchaouen is one of our most memorable places. Not only did we check off all the touristy highlights, but we also found hospitality in the blue city and adventure in the Rif Mountains. We returned to Chefchaouen, in company with great friends, and found our way to the Akchour Waterfall.