Chefchaouen, also called Caouen and Chechaouen, this intriguing, beautiful town in the Rif Mountains is a favourite of tourists with its laid-back atmosphere and clear mountain air.
Founded in 1471 as a base to attack the Portuguese in Cueta, it flourished with the exodus of Moslem refugees from Spain whose whitewashed houses with blue doors and window frames, neat balconies, tiled roofs and patios with citrus trees, create its Hispanic atmosphere.
When Spanish troops arrived in 1920 the inhabitants still spoke a dialect of medieval Castilian. For decades Christians had been forbidden to enter on pain of death and the few who ventured in, were invariably in heavy disguise. In the 1880’s two famous interlopers who managed to visit and leave were the French adventurer, soldier and later Saharan priest, Charles De Foucauld, and the British traveller and journalist, Walter Harris.
Today things are more peaceful and understanding in this charming town set amidst the dramatic setting of the green peaks. In fact Chefchaouen means “look at the peaks”.