Chefchaouen, a small town in northern Morocco, has a rich history, beautiful natural surroundings and awe-inspiring architecture, but it is most famous for its buildings’ brilliantly blue walls throughout the “old town” sector, or Medina. The blue Moroccan city walls attracted travel photographer James Clear, who snapped some vivid photos while wandering the city’s narrow streets.
Nestled high in the Rif Mountains, the quiet city was once shut off from the outside world for almost 500 years. Now, its maze-like streets painted in shades of blue are open to visitors. Still, the town is an isolated escape from the country around it.
Similar to the surrounding Moroccan towns, the medina features white-washed buildings with a fusion of Spanish and Moorish architecture, but the vibrant, blue walls seem to be unique to Chefchaouen, often called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco.” Said to be introduced to the town by Jewish refugees in 1930 as a symbol of sky and heaven, the color is believed to still be used to repel mosquitoes (as they dislike clear and moving water). We wonder how well that works!
Bright-colored pigments are used to create paints of all shades and locals scoop out whatever color they need from bags and sacks in the shops and squares around town. The blue colors that cover the entire city originally came from bags of pigment as well.
Stairways painted blue connect covered walkways stuffed with small stores selling jewelry, scarves, and elaborate pottery. When the shops close for the night, their blue doors add another layer of color and texture to the structures, which are constantly being repainted. Building walls are strung with potted plants, lined with sacks of fluorescent spices, and studded with ornate archways and windows.
Images via James Clear
Local men wander the streets in long, wool robes with pointed hoods known as jellabas, which are usually worn as protection against the rain, wind, and sun. The women can often be spotted handcrafting Moroccan rugs and carpets using wool, camel hair, cactus fiber, and natural dyes from the surrounding mountains.
Clear often showcases his travels through photo essays to document his adventures around the world and emphasize the importance of creating things. All of his images from this particular journey to Chefchaouen, Morocco were shot with a Canon 6D and a Canon 40mm f/2.8 lens. Browse his full gallery of photographs from Morocco here.
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Would you visit this blue city?