Fifty Shades of Blue in Chefchaouen City: The Blue Pearl of Morocco

  Chefchaouen city does not only meet the expectations, but it exceeds them. The locals have unveiled multiple reasons behind its striking fifty shades of blue.

 I was very excited upon my first visit to Chefchaouen in 2015, because it has a wide reputation in Morocco about its tranquility, and astonishing nature. But what makes it distinctive are the striking, and varying shades of blue. Is the whole city in blue, or just some streets? And why blue color exactly and not green or pink maybe?

Here is the truth guys;

The fifty shades of blue feels like in an aquarium
Image source: Mirror


A Quick Look at the History of Chefchaouen


 Chefchaouen or Blue Pearl as nicknamed by its locals, is a tiny town with a large history, located in the glorious scenery of the Rif mountains of northwest Morocco. Moulay Ali Ibn Rashid Al Alami (a distant descendant of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad) found it in 1471 in order to fight against the Portuguese invasion at that time. While the Ghomara tribes, Moriscos, and Jews settled down in it after the Spanish Reconquista in 1492. Later on in 1920 Spain seized Chefchaouen, and considered it as part of Spanish-Morocco. But that was not the end, after 36 years in 1956 Morocco declared its independance and the Blue Pearl rejoined it again.

 The Name

 The locals applied the name of Chefchaouen fairly recently, they used to call it simply Chaouen. which is aptly named, meaning in Arabic language “The Two Horns” inspired from the twin giant mountains of the city. While Chef/Chouf means in Arabic literally “Look”. So come look at the two horns, and the fifty shades of blue as well.


a panoramic capture from the terrace of El Kasbaa in Chefchaouen
Image source: Manuel Cohen

Reasons Behind the Fifty Shades of Blue : 

 Chefchaouen people didn’t just wake up one day, and decided to paint their town in blue. While a bunch of different stories being told for the reason behind the fifty shades of blue. I cannot assure which one is true, but I can assure that it turned out good for Chefchaouen, to be a magnetic corner for tourists from all over the world.

The Jews

 Upon an interesting conversation of me, and an old local lady of Chefchaouen. The reason behind the fifty shades of blue she stated: “the blue coloured walls came just recently during the times when the jewish community dwelled here. While the houses used to be earthy, and reddish, or simply painted in white. The jewish community brought multiple shades of blue paint as a powder, and painted all their neighberhood”. Which apparently Chefchaouen people found astonishing and unhesitantly copied it. Regardless on the historic tensions between Jews and Muslims, it is unlikely that the local Islamic people replicate the Jewish practices.

 In the other hand, blue is a kind of sacred color in the the jewish beliefs. It represents the sky, therefore a reminder of heaven and God. There is a strong tradition among Jewish communities of painting things in blue. They use blue dye to colour fabrics, prayer mats typically, keeping up with their religious and cultural practices. 

Mosquito Repellant  

 The position of Chefchaouen comes as a small village in the lap of the two giant green mountains. So no wonder why it’s highly attractive to different types of insects especially mosquitos during the summertime. While other people fighting against these little monsters with chemical sprays and traps, Chefchaouen simply decided to wash their walls in fifty shades of blue. Their reasoning is that these insects do not like being in the water, despite breeding and living near water. Therefore an entirely blue alleyways would resemble as flowing water, and keep the mosquitos away.

The local Muslim community had noticed fewer mosquitos in the jewish blue neighborhood, and decided over time to follow suit. 

Soothing and Good Appearance:

Most of us can agree that blue color is charming and calming, it’s true. According to some locals it was painted in blue merely for a soothing effect, and a unique surrounding. As the blue color represents happiness and optimism in the Islamic culture.

 Furthermore I was truly attracted to something during my visit to Chefchaouen. How tranquil and calm the atmosphere. Walking in these entirely blue bathed alleyways is a kind of meditation or a session of therapy. After a little research, I found out that blue color was proven to have a calming effect on people emotionally, and help to concentrate. 


While this certainly wouldn’t have been the original reason for painting the city in fifty shades of blue. But attracting tourists is a major reason why the practice continues later on. Tourism is playing an important factor in the economical upgrowth of Chefchaouen. You can find more than 200 hotels for accomodation in this little town.

 However the current COVID19 crisis has affected Chefchaouen locals profoundly, due to tourism and travelling suspension. I heard that more than 70% of the population are living after tourism. And since Chefchaouen is a rural area, other locals manage a living with agriculture and products of their animals (milk, eggs, butter…). Other locals live after their handmade creations such as wool long dresses, these are called here Jelaba or Jelab, it keeps very warm during the winter cold months. As they are talented at making wool, and silk rugs with very nice designs, I can recommend as a souvenir. 

Most of the tourists have been to Chefchaouen before, look forward to visit it again, and staying updated about travel tips and hope during COVID_19 crisis. Tourism is another essential source of life to the locals.

Unpopular Reasons Behind the Fifty Shades of Blue 


One of the famous houses in chefchaouen, open for tourism
Image source: Morocco News

After my tour in Chefchaouen, and asking many locals about the reasons behind the fifty shades of blue. Suprisingly I came up with a list of different reasons, some of them even quite unbelievable. Here I will list the few repeated reasons that I can still relate with.

Destinctive Style Than Other Cities

Another version says that the reason behind the fifty shades of blue in Chefchaouen, is to get its destinctive impress among other cities of Morocco.  And effectively worked well and became as one of the highly attractive destinations for tourists, not only from Morocco, but from all over the world.

 Morocco is not a country that you can travel across in one week or so, but you can travel for couple of months, and everytime find yourself in a different environment and atmosphere. It is unbelievably a big mix of cultures, traditions, even languages. There is that unique feeling within each city, the various settings, people with different clothing traditions, food, music style and so on. 

The Heat

 Another reason which I highly believe not the original intention for painting Chefchaouen in blue. However the locals believe that the blue paint helps to keep their houses chill during the summer heat, which can be up to 40°C. Therefore the blue buildings absorb the heat and keeps the houses cool.


The Water

 Blue according to some locals represents water, and the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea. Chefchaouen is a source of water, it is one of the rarest cities in Morocco that has clean fresh drinking water from the tap, very light and yummy to drink.

 Ras El Maa waterfall is one of the biggest sources of water, coming from the mountains, crossing the Medina (the ancient part of Chefchouen), and continuing few dozen of kilometers outside the city. For the locals it’s an essential source of life. Therefore bathing their buildings in blue serves as a reflection of the importance, and appreciation to this life essential source.

Other Attractions to Chefchaouen


This is how the local market of chefchaouen looks like
Image source: Stock Photo- Alarmy


  The fifty shades of blue is not the only attractive side. Actually there are many fun activities to do while in Chefchaouen. For instance a shopping day at the local market (only Monday) where the village’s people gather to offer their agriculture fruits (vegetables, seasonal fruits, plants…). Probably not all looking at perfect shape, and brightly clean, but definitely bio and chemical free. As the prices are incredibly cheap, you can buy a lot with nothing of money.

 Alongside a day in the local market, if you are a nature and hiking lover, Chefchaouen is the right spot. It has many hiking trails up in the mountains with an aerial panoramic view over the town. As it is possible by transport as well.

Things to do in Chefchaouen, Morocco 

Where to Stay in Chefchaouen, Morocco 

Public Transportation in Chefchaouen, Morocco

Final Thoughts

 The fifty shades of blue have made the streets of Chefchaouen a magnet to photographers from around the world. Despite the various stories were told behind the secret of the fifty shades of blue. 

 Chefchaouen has many other qualities and delights to be cherished besides its striking appearance. I do believe that each of the reasons for its blue color contains a piece of truth, which forms the bigger image behind the magic of this blue gem.

 After the arrival of the jewish community, the practice of blue painting started shortly. The muslim locals were stunned by its charming appearance, and decided to copy it. I personally find it a thoughtful action and a kind of invitation for peace from the locals to show a positive attitude by sharing the new community tradition, despite their intense history. Furthermore the jewish community brought new ideas, skills, and useful materials that helped Chefchaouen, according to some locals. As they collaborated together in creating modern crafts. What a magnificant example of when we work together hand in hand, regardless on our race, religion, and history, we can create magic.

reflection of harmony between people
Image source: Legal Nomads

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