Chefchaouen, popularly known as the blue city because all the walls are painted blue is a little town in north west Morocco. History has it that blue was favoured by the Jews who left Spain in solidarity with Muslims after the Spanish Conquest.
Chefchaouen is famous or infamous depending on your viewpoint, for growing cannabis and hashish is widely available in town (be careful to not sit at restaurants filled only with men or you will be approached by dealers). Because of this, it’s not surprising Chefchaouen attracts a particular type of visitor i.e. rustas..
I visited not for the hashish but based on gorgeous photos and on recommendations of friends. Once in Chefchaouen, we were lucky to find a fellow foodie in the form of Joana, who worked at our hotel, Dar Gabriel. We ate at all of her recommendations and every one of them were amazing. It’s very easy to eat at the touristy (read overpriced, mediocre food and service) restaurants on holiday, especially more so in Morocco where the Riaad (boutique hotel) owners get kick backs when you visit their recommended restaurants. This happened to us in Fes, but that’s for another post. We were lucky to visit Chefchaouen first, thereby enjoying unexpectedly great food with no strings attached! My recommended list is as follows:
1. Casa Hasan
This was the first place Joana recommended, and a very popular restaurant as easy to find (just behind the main square), so I was somewhat doubtful. Despite being touristy, the food is excellent. My favorite dessert of the entire trip was here, a seemingly simple yoghurt, honey and pecan nuts combination. Generally, all cheese and yoghurt in Chefchaouen is delicious. The dessert was good enough for me to go back the next day, just for dessert! I felt rather sheepish going at dinner time for dessert (we ate somewhere else that night) and asked the owner if coming in for dessert during his busiest time was permitted. Of course he said. As we left he endeared himself to me by saying the entire Casa Hasan envied me my dessert. Moroccans are eloquent..
We also tried the Casa Hasan hammam the next day and I highly recommend it.
I’m South African so of course I embraced the name similar to our beloved Mandela. The pizzas itself are amazing, just make use of the free wifi as menus aren’t in English nor do the waiters speak English. We tried the four seasons pizza and chocolate fondant (both recommended by Joana) and could not have been happier.
3. Moulay Ali Ben Rachid restaurant
Our best tagine of the entire trip was from here, a prawn tagine. Joana warned us before we went that it wasn’t the best looking restaurant, you walk downstairs and sit in a basement type room with no windows. By now we trusted everything Joana said so were definitely going to try it. It didn’t start off well as we couldn’t find the restaurant easily and we had to wait an hour for it opened at 8-30 pm.
When we ordered prawns, the owner thought we meant mutton (rather use the words shrimp). However, the food when it arrived, was worth the confusion and wait. The prawns were melt in your mouth soft and served with chips. Yes, tagine and chips works and is delicious!
This non-alcoholic drink is easiest described as an avocado smoothie with pieces of fruit included. It’s delicious! It was sold in a store near Hotel Parador, and again seems to be frequented by locals. There’s upstairs seating and a giant big screen television, which explain why it’s mostly frequented by men (i.e. football games).
We weren’t interested in hiking in Chefchaouen although that’s one of the recommended activities. Two days of great food, hammam pampering and reading on the rooftop terrace of Dar Gabriel was exactly the break needed and I’d happily do it again.
Context: I visited Chefchaouen in October 2014 as part of a larger trip through Spain, Portugal & Morocco. Dar Gabriel can be reached via Bab Souk.