Source de Ras el-Maa

Chefchaouen / Rif Mountains, Chefchaouen Province, Morocco

About Source de Ras el-Maa


Hiking Distance: < 1km round trip (from medina)
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2015-05-21
Date last visited: 2015-05-21

Waterfall Latitude: 35.17106
Waterfall Longitude: -5.25638

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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.

Chefchaouen_126_05212015 - Cascades immediately beneath the Source Ras el-Maa
Cascades immediately beneath the Source Ras el-Maa

There was a building surrounding this spring so we wouldn’t be able to see the source in its natural self.

Nevertheless, 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.

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.

Chefchaouen_524_05212015 - Experiencing the sunset over the medina of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque
Experiencing the sunset over the medina of Chefchaouen from the Spanish Mosque

I think what stood out about this waterfalling excursion was that it was a suitable place to chill out and relax.

Meanwhile, its close proximity to the medina of Chefchaouen allowed us to go back and forth between the Source Ras el-Maa and the medina itself.

Also nearby was a trail climbing up to the Spanish Mosque, which was perched on a hill with a beautiful sunset panorama over the medina and its surrounding mountains.

The Magical Medina of Chefchaouen

Since the Chefchaouen medina was famous for its blue-painted buildings and walkways, we were naturally curious about how this came to be.

Chefchaouen_195_05212015 - Experiencing Chefchaouen from the rooftop of our accommodation in the heart of the medina
Experiencing Chefchaouen from the rooftop of our accommodation in the heart of the medina

Unfortunately, there seemed to be many stories regarding how the city became blue like this.

Even one of the locals was honest to us 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.

That said, I had read a different account saying that the Jews came here as refugees in the 1930’s.

Chefchaouen_650_05212015 - One of the secluded alleyways within the magical medina of Chefchaouen
One of the secluded alleyways within the magical medina of Chefchaouen

Nevertheless, 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 on some of the trees in the area.

Apparently, it’s lush enough in the Rif Mountains to harbor these pesky insects.

By the way, it’s also lush enough in Chefchaouen that the mountains were also ripe for cultivating marijuana (or cannabis, pot, irie, spliff, bong, whatever you want to call it).

Chefchaouen_247_05212015 - The Source Ras el-Maa was a few minutes walk from the charming Chefchaouen medina, where some people amped up the cuteness factor by hanging photo-friendly potted plants to contrast their blue exterior
The Source Ras el-Maa was a few minutes walk from the charming Chefchaouen medina, where some people amped up the cuteness factor by hanging photo-friendly potted plants to contrast their blue exterior

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.

It charmed us in a way that we hadn’t experienced since our visit to Oia on the tip of Santorini Island in Greece back in 2010.

Experiencing the Source Ras el-Maa from the Medina of Chefchaouen

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.

Chefchaouen_074_05212015 - Looking down at a pair of small waterfalls while approaching the spring at the Source Ras el-Maa
Looking down at a pair of small waterfalls while approaching the spring at the Source Ras el-Maa

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.

At the same time, there were hundreds (maybe thousands) of people either chilling out, visiting, or just passing through (and it was a weekday!).

Chefchaouen_080_05212015 - Looking at another one of the cascades downstream of the Source Ras el-Maa from the other side of the river
Looking at another one of the cascades downstream of the Source Ras el-Maa from the other side of the river

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.

It only took us about 20 minutes to walk 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, and I can easily imagine how one could spend as little or as much time here as desired.

Authorities

The Source Ras el-Maa resides in the medina of Chefchaouen (or Chaouen for short) in the Rif Mountains of the Chefchaouen Province in Morocco. I don’t think the waterfalls are administered by any formal authority, but I’m guessing it’s administered by the City of Chefchaouen. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may get leads from the Morocco National Tourism website.

Chefchaouen_067_05212015 - 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 itself
Chefchaouen_072_05212015 - Looking downstream from the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa River near the Source Ras el-Maa
Chefchaouen_100_05212015 - Contextual look downstream from the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa River near the Source Ras el-Maa
Chefchaouen_077_05212015 - Following the wide footpath along the west bank of the Ras el-Maa river towards its source
Chefchaouen_078_05212015 - Looking down at the bridge spanning the Ras el-Maa River as we continued to walk further upstream towards the Source Ras el-Maa
Chefchaouen_088_05212015 - Looking downstream from the bridge leading right to the building enclosing the source of the Ras el-Maa river
Chefchaouen_091_05212015 - The bridge and building enclosing the Source Ras el-Maa
Chefchaouen_096_05212015 - 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 building
Chefchaouen_097_05212015 - Context of the developed walkway following the west side of the Ras el-Maa River
Chefchaouen_131_05212015 - Contextual look at a pair of cascades on the Ras el-Maa River looking upstream towards its source
Chefchaouen_457_05212015 - Looking down at one of the intermediate cascades (man-modified) downstream from the Source Ras el-Maa as seen from the trail leading up to the Spanish Mosque
Chefchaouen_348_05212015 - In case you are wondering, here's a distant look towards the Spanish Mosque, which yielded a nice view over the medina of Chefchaouen

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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.

Chefchaouen_103_05212015 - Looking across the bridge over the Ras el-Maa River towards the medina of Chefchaouen from the side road that took us right up to the Source Ras el-Maa
Looking across the bridge over the Ras el-Maa River towards the medina of Chefchaouen from the side road that took us right up to the Source Ras el-Maa

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).

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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Tagged with: chefchaouen, rif, ras el maa, morocco, waterfall, africa, blue, jewish, spanish mosque



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