Project Description

Catalina Fernández and Sidi Ali Ben Rachid

There is a love legend that tells the origin of Chaouen, a beautiful blue village in northwest Morocco. While in Spain, a Moroccan emir Sidi Ali Ben Rachid fell madly in love with a beautiful girl named Catalina Fernández. The girl lived in the southwest side of Cadiz province, what is now Vejer de la Frontera ( “de la Frontera” pertaining to the frontier between Arab and Christian occupied Spain). The two got married, she converted to Islam and changed her name to Lalla Zhora. After 500 years under Arab control, Vejer was reconquered and the war forced the couple to flee to Morocco. The couple settled in a Berber town, next to a hill. The emir became more and more powerful, but Lalla Zhora found herself sadder every day. She could not forget the land that had seen her born, nor did she know how to leave behind that nostalgia that haunted her day after day. Concerned for the health of his wife, Rachid decided to recreate her hometown and built a town in its image and likeness, with a layout of irregular streets and white houses that were dyed blue as a gesture to the Berber people who had welcomed them. Once the city was built, he published an edict welcoming those expelled from Al-Andalus (the name of the Iberian Peninsula during the Muslim rule), who began to arrive en masse to their new home. In a short time the place grew to 10,000 Moroccans, Andalusians and Jews, a privileged place where everyone felt at home. This is the story of love that gave birth to this thriving city, the beautiful blue town and a small paradise on earth.