Kif it up in Chefchaouen

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Three hours of bus southeast of Tangier will get you into the Rif Mountains, while not very high they make for pretty landscape with interesting rock formations and the groaning of the bus changing gear uphill could almost be mistaken for the intestinal upset of a weary camel. Ok maybe not really, but every 100 meters along the route were massive red Moroccan flags which I was later to learn heralded the arrival of the King of Marocco to the little village of 40,000 people that is Chefchaouen.

It is estimated that half of all cannabis consumed in Europe comes from Morocco and specifically from them there Rif Mountains. This is possible because, King Hassan II gave special permission for the region to legally grow and sell cannabis and its' various products until they find another product that can be successfully cultivated in the harsh terrain. According to statistics there is a bout 120,000 hectors of the stuff, of which either kif or hashish is produced. Kif is shorten version of the Arabic word for pleasure and is specifically the resin glands that can be dusted of the bud. Whereas hashish is a sort of solid block of ground and compacted cannabis buds and leaves, invented in the 60s because it's easier to transport. Anyway that's a lot of information you probably didn't need to know about cannabis yet now do.

So it's probably not surprising to learn that Chefchaouen is a very laid back place full of Spanish speaking hippies, dressed in tie dye, like a cast from the Broadway musical 'Hair'. Having grown only a few whiskers, I could only sideline it and watch on as funkadelic waves of baba coolness washed across the main square.

Because of the closeness of the Spanish border, the French language has be relegated to third place after Arab and Spanish, so I had to dive into my limited Spanish when talking with street urchins and hotel owners. And I did meet a lot of hotel owners each of them seem to repeat "No Vacancy" even before I open my mouth. I don't know how many hotels I tried but things were looking glum, unaware of it at the time but, along with the king comes all the kings' men which comprises of 1500 security personal, each requiring a hotel room.

However I did come across Muhammad who red eyed managed to prop himself up on one elbow when I entered and suggested I sleep on his terrace. This all of a sudden sounded like an excellent idea and was promptly introduced to 3 Danish boys who were also using the terrace, each of who seemed to have an active interest in funding the local economy.

Although young, them danes spoke English very well and were incredibly mature so I had a good chin wag with em and later that evening I found myself in a long narrow room above a restaurant lined with school benches cheering on a Barcelona vers Munich game of soccer. A window or two open wouldn't have gone a miss, because with all the smoking going on I was getting quite faint. Still you got to hand it to them Moroccans they love their soccer.

Back at the hotel I managed to get to know a few of the kings men who were staying in rooms close by, each of whom spoke excellent French and some of whom had lived in the same suburbs as I in Paris. It was excellent having these guys to answer questions about the Muslim religion, their traditions and culture.

The next day I decided to go for a walk and started climbing the mountains behind Chefchaouen. Just following goat trails, I found an even higher valley with a narrow gravel road running up the middle. I wasn't that sure how safe it was to walk around without a guide, as Mohammed had already warned me about the banditos in them there hills. Still I figured what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger and followed the road until I started hearing far away tapping. The tapping turned out to be a couple of young guys making kif by spending all day in front of a sieve piled high with cannabis then wrapped in plastic. All day they tapped at it with their drum sticks as the resign from the buds rained down. They then sold the produce to people to smoke in their pipes. A lady with her snotty nosed son showed me around but seemed disappointed when I wouldn't buy anything from her.
Further up the hill I passed plenty of harvested cannabis crops and herds of goats until I got to the top and decided to get back down before sunset.

The rest of my time at Chefchaouen was spent either in cafes or lying in the sun on the terrace. Would definitely recommend this place to anyone, not necessarily because of the legalisation of cannabis but of the easy going, gentle relaxing environment.

However I can't stay here for ever and must check out the rest of morocco before heading south. The next three days will be taken up by travelling in hot and sweaty buses from Chefchaouen to Meknes and back to Casablanca where I need to organise my Mauritanian visa and see a good friend from Paris. Sylvie N (who is in town for a cure with her mum) meet me at her hotel reception where we stayed and I drank for the first time in a while a couple of beers and we exchanged stories and laughed again at a few older ones. The next day I travelled to Beni Mellal for a night and then it was on to the next port of call Marrakesh
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