Source Ras el-Maa

Chefchaouen / Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen Province, Morocco

Rating: 1     Difficulty: 1
Cascades at the Source Ras el-Maa

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

The Source Ras el-Maa was really my waterfalling excuse to talk about the magical blue medina of Chefchaouen (pronounced "shef-SHAU-wun"). We managed to encounter a handful of small cascades that ultimately came about from a spring. There was a building surrounding this spring so we wouldn't be able to see the source in its natural self, but it was still hard to believe that such a spring could produce so much water as the Ras el-Maa River would pass along the eastern fringes of the medina of Chefchaouen before eventually emptying out into the Mediterranean Sea. As for the waterfalling experience, there really wasn't a particular waterfall of note, and I suppose one could argue it would be a stretch to call this a waterfalling excursion. It was really more of a conglomeration of smaller waterfalls, where perhaps the most notable one (shown above) was probably on the order of 5m tall or so.

I think what stood out about this waterfalling excursion was that it was a suitable place to chill out and relax while going back and forth between the magical atmosphere of the blue medina of Chefchaouen to the west or even climbing east up to the Spanish Mosque on the hill going in the other direction to experience a sunset over the medina and its surrounding mountains.

Inside the magically blue medina of Chefchaouen Since the medina was famous for its blue-painted buildings and walkways, we were naturally curious about how this came to be. However, there seemed to be many stories regarding how the city became blue like this, and one of the locals was honest when he said these stories seemed to contradict each other so he himself had no idea what's the truth. One story talked about how it was the Jews who came here during a period of the Reconquest of Spain (though I had read about another account saying the Jews came here as refugees in the 1930's).

It was said that their identity revolved around the blue color in the Star of David, and hence the selection of the color blue. Another story talked about how the blue color tended to deter the nesting and proliferation of biting insects (yes, it's lush enough in the Rif Mountains to harbor them) on some of the trees in the area. By the way, it's apparently lush enough here that there mountains were also ripe for cultivating marijuana (or cannabis, pot, irie, spliff, bong, whatever you want to call it). Whatever the case my be, there's no doubt that the blue of this city was what made it stand out as a very popular tourist destination in Morocco, and it charmed us in a way that we hadn't experienced since our visit to Oia on the tip of Santorini Island in Greece.

The area at the Source Ras el-Maa consisted of a couple of short walkways flanking both sides of the river. A bridge adjacent to a car park on its east side allowed us to get back and forth across the river itself. Just downstream of this bridge were a few shelters where some locals used them to wash fabrics in the river water then hang them out to dry. There were also some locals and visitors cooling off in the cold water directly. Moreover, there seemed to be a bit of atmosphere to the area during our visit because we heard loud music blaring out of one of the cafes or shops nearby while there were hundreds (maybe thousands) of people either chilling out, visiting, or just passing through (and it was a weekday!).

Just to give you an idea of how compact the Chefchaouen medina was, we happened to be staying near the Bab Souq (or Bab Suk) on the western side of the medina, and it would take about 20 minutes walk to get from there to the Source Ras el-Maa. However, since we were easily distracted by the scenery of the medina and its numerous side streets, we easily consumed 45-60 minutes in each direction. We spent roughly 40 minutes around the source though I can easily imagine one could spend as little or as much time here as desired.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

The Source Ras el-Maa was a few minutes walk from the charming medina of Chefchaouen, which was full of magical blue-colored walkways and buildings whose charm was very reminiscent of Oia, GreeceThe Source Ras el-Maa was a few minutes walk from the charming medina of Chefchaouen, which was full of magical blue-colored walkways and buildings whose charm was very reminiscent of Oia, Greece
Just up the hill after about 15-20 minutes of walking was the Spanish Mosque (there seemed to be a bit of an Andalucian heritage in Chefchaouen), where one could see the sunset over the medinaJust up the hill after about 15-20 minutes of walking was the Spanish Mosque (there seemed to be a bit of an Andalucian heritage in Chefchaouen), where one could see the sunset over the medina
From Chefchaouen, it was possible to drive a little over an hour to Akchour, then do the tricky adventure to see the Bridge of God (Pont de Dieu), which was a very tall natural bridgeFrom Chefchaouen, it was possible to drive a little over an hour to Akchour, then do the tricky adventure to see the Bridge of God (Pont de Dieu), which was a very tall natural bridge
It was roughly 3.5 hours drive from the medina of Fes to the medina of Chefchaouen. Fes (a tannery is shown here) was one of those cities that we felt rivaled Chefchaouen in the charm departmentIt was roughly 3.5 hours drive from the medina of Fes to the medina of Chefchaouen. Fes (a tannery is shown here) was one of those cities that we felt rivaled Chefchaouen in the charm department
Looking across the Ras el-Maa River at shelters and locals washing fabrics around them or the young and the young-at-heart cooling off within the river itselfLooking across the Ras el-Maa River at shelters and locals washing fabrics around them or the young and the young-at-heart cooling off within the river itself

Looking downstream from the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa RiverLooking downstream from the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa River

Looking along the west bank of the river near its source at some cascades tumbling downstream along eastern side of the medina of ChefchaouenLooking along the west bank of the river near its source at some cascades tumbling downstream along eastern side of the medina of Chefchaouen

Following the wide footpath along the west bank of the river towards its sourceFollowing the wide footpath along the west bank of the river towards its source

Looking down at the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa RiverLooking down at the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa River

Direct look at perhaps the tallest of the cascades near the Source Ras el-MaaDirect look at perhaps the tallest of the cascades near the Source Ras el-Maa

Looking downstream from the bridge leading right to the building enclosing the source of the Ras el-Maa riverLooking downstream from the bridge leading right to the building enclosing the source of the river

The bridge and building enclosing the Source Ras el-MaaThe bridge and building enclosing the source

Context of the building surrounding the spring responsible for the Source Ras el-Maa with a lot of water gushing out of the bottom of the buildingContext of the building surrounding the spring responsible for the source of the river with a lot of water gushing out of the bottom of the building

Context of the developed walkway following the west side of the Ras el-Maa RiverContext of the developed walkway following the west side of the river

Looking down across the bridge over the Ras el-Maa River as the walkway heads towards the Chefchaouen medinaLooking down across the bridge over the Ras el-Maa River as the walkway heads towards the Chefchaouen medina

Now looking directly at the bridge by the Source Ras el-Maa from the eastern banks of the riverNow looking directly at the bridge by the source of the river from its eastern banks


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Checking out the cascades around the bridge just downstream of the source of the Ras el-Ma River in Chefchaouen


Checking out the very source of the Ras el-Ma River before continuing downstream alongside the river itself adorned with many small cascades


Top down sweep starting from the source of the Ras el-Ma river then panning downstream to examine some of the most attractive cascades in the immediate area


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

The Source Ras el-Maa and its cascades were on the east side of the medina of Chefchaouen. It was roughly 20 minutes walk to go from the west end of the medina to the east end. There was also a small and busy car park here, where our guide managed to score a spot with some local help. So for all intents and purposes, this could be thought of as a drive-to waterfall or merely a short modest walk from the medina, where I'd imagine most visitors would be staying on a visit.

As for logistics, it took our driver about 3.5 hours to drive from Fes to Chefchaouen. It also took our driver roughly 2.5 hours to get from Chefchaouen to the industrial port of Tangier MED (which itself was about 30 minutes drive east of the coastal town of Tangier).




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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