An American Abroad

Visitors Wanted. Must Like Blue.

Chefchaouen is a town of 35,000 souls located in the Rif Mountains of northwest Morocco. From the moment we stepped off our bus from Fes until the wee hours of the morning four days later when we boarded a grand taxi for Casablanca, I felt like I was living in a psychedelic haze.

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Almost every rough rock wall in the medina has been scrubbed with a blue wash that produces differing shades and gradations. As the sun completed its daily arc through the sky, the blues cycled through many different hues, from Prussian blue to navy to cobalt blue to indigo to turquoise. At times the walls looked like snowdrifts on one of those winter days where the snow catches and color of the sky. I often passed by an alleyway and didn’t recognize it a few hours later because the hues had changed so much. The shifting tones of blue put me in mind of a dream. Chefchaouen is a place where everything seems not quite real.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively in the last two years. And I can say that Chefchaouen is the single most visually arresting place I have visited, with the possible exception of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

We were here:

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Unlike the sprawling labyrinthine medinas of Fes and Marrakech — and, for that matter, Sousse — Chefchaouen was easy to navigate.

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But I did get lost in a nonliteral way as I watched the textures of the blue-washed stucco and rocks. They shimmered. They breathed.

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I felt a literal chill as I turned corners and took in new vistas. It’s hard to believe that a place like this actually exists.

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I feel compelled to add a technical photographic note here. I have only minimally edited these pictures. In most cases, all I did was to convert them from RAW format to JPEGs. In a few instances, I upped the exposure levels, since the mix of shadows and bright sunlight in the medina sometimes resulted in the underexposure of some parts of some photos. But in the main, you are seeing the colors I saw. This is real. And seems unreal.

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