In the northwestern area of the Rif, in the provinces of Tetouan and Chaouen, on the northern border of the country known as Jebalah, a historical and cultural region of northern Morocco, the ancestral traditions of the Berber Kabyles coexist with the Arab and Andalusian cultural legacy.
The Rif mountains cross the north of Morocco in a crescent-shaped arc, with a length of about 300 kilometres, from Ceuta and Tetouan to Melilla and beyond, to the Algerian border. The word Rif, in Arabic "margin" or "shore", accurately describes the mountain range that borders the country's coast, next to the sea, and which establishes the natural border which, physically, geographically and culturally separates Mediterranean Morocco from continental Morocco.
The medina of Tetouan, ancient Titawin, was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997, rebuilt by Andalusian Muslims expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century. This small medina, with its maze of narrow streets between low white houses, is one of the best preserved medinas in Morocco.
Chaouen, known as the blue city of Morocco, was founded in 1471 on the site of an ancient Berber village. Considered for years as a holy city, hidden and protected among the mountains of the Rif, the population welcomed a large number of exiled Muslims and Jews from ancient Al-Andalus in its early days. Its irregularly laid out streets and blue-washed houses still retain an appearance reminiscent of some villages in Andalusia.
Near Chaouen, the Talassemtane National Park extends over a calcareous ridge of the western Rif. With an area of 54,000 hectares, the park contains the only mass of fir forest in Morocco. The more than 700 species of plants, 38 endemic and 26 rare or very rare, make Talassemtane one of the most ecologically valuable forest systems in the Rif.
The abundance of water and the mild climate have turned the valleys surrounding Chaouen into favourable territories for the development of an agricultural activity based mainly on the cultivation of wheat, olives and fruit trees.
The North Route of the Rif invites us to learn about the culture, traditions and nature of a diverse territory, full of contrasts, located in northern Morocco, at the north-western tip of the Rif Mountains.