Chefchaouen: The Blue City of Pilgrimage and Maraboutism
Situated between Tangier and Tetouan, Chefchaouen is a pretty town set beneath the imposing peaks of the Rif Mountains. The locals refer to Chefchaouen by its original name: Chaouen (the horns), referring to the twin peaks dominating the hillsides close to the town. Under the Spanish occupation of northern Morocco, the town was also known as Xaouen. These days, the names are used interchangeably.
Since its establishment in 1471, Chefchaouen has been a place for pilgrimage and maraboutism due to the presence of the tombs of shereefian (descendants of the prophet). In fact, Chefchaouen has been so sacred; it has only been visited by three Westerners until the arrival of Spanish troops in 1920!
Today, Chefchaouen has a more relaxed attitude towards tourism. It is well established on the excursion routes and the medina pensions are some of the friendliest and cheapest in Morocco. The Medina itself is beautiful, with its illuminatingly white houses and clean streets – the cleanest in the country. There is the inevitable souks and smattering of local stalls, and to actually climb the mountains and enjoy the idyllic surroundings is one of the best introductions to Morocco.
Chefchaouen is also an important centre for maraboutism – pilgrimage to the tombs of marabouts or saints. There are a large number of moussems (festivals) held throughout the year.