Photo Essay: The Blue City of Chefchaouen, Morocco

About once per month, I publish a photo essay that showcases a particular place or theme from my travels.

I often write about the importance of creating things, choosing to be a “maker” and contributing to the world around you (see here, here, and here). Photography is one way for me to put those ideas into practice. I firmly believe that creating and exploring aren’t merely artistic choices, but also healthy life choices. Seeking adventure and creating pictures is a way for me to practice what I preach.

With that said, all of the images below were shot with a Canon 6D and a Canon 40mm f/2.8 lens. This is a new camera and lens setup for me — and I loved them both. I’m planning to use them exclusively going forward.

The images in this photo essay are from Chefchaouen, Morocco. As always, all photos are my own.

Chefchaouen, Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Hidden deep within the Rif Mountains of the Northwest Morocco is a small, quiet city called Chefchaouen. This sleepy mountain village was one of my favorite areas in the entire country.

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

The men wander the streets in long robes with pointed hoods known as jellabas. Jellabas are usually made from wool and definitely qualify as legit mountain outerwear. Locals wear them in the rain, the wind, the sun — you name it.

The women make handmade Moroccan rugs and carpets using wool, camel hair, cactus fiber, and natural dyes from the surrounding mountains.

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

The ancient part of Chefchaouen, known as the medina, is covered in all shades of blue paint. You’ll find blue spreading across the streets, the walls, and even inside the homes on nearly every street and alleyway. It’s not hard to figure out why Chefchaouen is often called “The Blue Pearl of Morocco.”

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

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 these bags of pigment.

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Chefchaouen Morocco Photos

Want more? You can browse the full gallery of images from Morocco here.

39 Comments

  1. Superb photography of a place that looks rather magical and mysterious to us westerners. Very beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Enjoyed this post as I do all your posts but this was a refreshing change from the also very interesting habit type stuff. More please! I miss not being able to travel at the moment so posts like this help pass the time till I can. Thanks!

  3. Chefchaouen has been on my bucket list for a while. Great photos, James!

    How long would you say one should spend in it to gain a good appreciation of it before moving on?

  4. Really fascinating peek into another culture. It’s interesting that they’re not concerned about uniformity and neatness in painting their houses etc., and yet it still looks beautiful.

  5. Magnificent.

    There are many beautiful places in this world to go. This doesn’t pop up so often.

    Do you take pictures of people James? It could be pretty cool to have an “photo essay” on experts from a specific topic.

    Like photographers, writers, travelers etc.

  6. Great pics, James. They also have blue streets in Essaouira.

    Really magical place indeed. Been there last summer and your essay brought me back to great memories. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Fabulous pix James. Looks like a fascinating place to go. If you like blue cities also check out Jodhpur in India. It’s also very beautiful especially when when seen from above from the fort. Cheers for these amazing snaps.

  8. I agree with the above commenter who noted the magical and mysterious impression this gives to westerners. What an amazing, diverse world we live in!

  9. Simple architecture with profound historical significance, becomes more dramatic with silent but mysterious expressions due to simple color attachment, and finally becomes outstanding architectural phenomenon. Thanks for sharing such unique images.

  10. Wow! This is amazing. I’ve visited the medina in Fes and this blue city has a completely different feel! Thank you for sharing these beautiful photographs.

  11. James, what a beautiful essay. It reminds me of “The Blue People” from the Tuareg Tribe in the Sahara Deserts. They’re called “blue people” cause de pigments they use in clothing are from the indigo plant, and for thousands of years they keep painting their clothes with indigo, so the skin turns in to a sort of blueish gray sort of tone.

    I loved your photos, they tell me a story and your personal feelings. Great job!

  12. Dear James,

    Your photos are stunning!

    I am enchanted with the very first one showing hills off in the distance. Is there a possibility that I could have your permission to paint that? My husband and I are both artists in Alaska and I think your photo would have universal appeal.

    I agree with the response of one of your writers, you should have a photobook made of that unique city!

    Thank you for your sharing the gift of your photography.

    Sincerely,
    Karen Cornelius

  13. Dear James,
    Your photos are stunning!
    I am enchanted with the very first one showing hills off in the distance. Is there a possibility that I could have your permission to paint that? My husband and I are both artists in Alaska and I think your photo would have universal appeal.
    feel free to see our website at
    http://www.corneliusstudio.com

    I-agree with the response of one of your writers,you should have a photo book made of that unique city!
    Thank you for your sharing the gift of your photography,

    Sincerely ,
    Karen Cornelius

  14. Very nice set of pictures James, I enjoyed them a lot! Beautiful colours and compositions…

    Only at the end of last week I have returned from a 8 day trip in Morocco myself, and although I have not visited Chefchaouen this time, the medinas in Rabat and Essaouira provided a somehow similar experience. Essaouira especially impressed me immensely, though we had only a 2-3 hours to visit it, from which 1 hour was a guided tour… I call it my dream town of Morocco, and I became very envious of its inhabitants.

    • Sounds like you had a great trip, Florin! I didn’t get to see Essaouira, but I’ve heard great things. (Guess I’ll have to make a second trip!)

      Thanks for reading.

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