About Source de Ras el-Maa
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.
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.
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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