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Chefchaouen's blue quarter in the Rif Mountains, north Morocco.
The Rif Mountains are by far the wettest region of Morocco. In consequence they are fertile and forested, though overgrazing and forest clearing for cannabis cultivation among other agricultural activities has deforested large areas over the last 40 years since European hippies took to Moroccan hash in a big way.
Certainly whoever painted Chefchaouen had been smoking some quite mind-bending gear which is hardly surprising considering the number of marijuana plantations in the immediate vicinity.
Chefchaouen. The city is lime-washed in white and blue.
Chefchaouen's architecture resembles that of southern Spain's Andalusia, especially Seville, with its squares, gardens and castles. The sights are not exactly gripping, being mainly the medina, the waterfall east of the medina, the old mosque on the hill near the waterfall and its excellent town view and the rather dull kasbah.
Apart from those modest attractions most tourists travel to Chefchaouen (3 hours from Fes) either to see what all kif-growing/smoking business is about or for the relaxed and colourful ambience and the local basket-making or pottery, whether it's window-shopping, buying or taking lessons.
Hashish (kif) is actually illegal in Morocco, even if a large portion of the population do smoke it openly. You are a stranger so be discreet. The safest way to smoke is with locals as the quality is likely to be good and the location safe. Alternatively backpacker hostels and guest houses will generally be cool. Smoking in the street is not a good idea. Beware carrying and dealers who inform the police; you could be busted and have to pay an instant 'fine'. Or worse.
Rif and Atlas Mountains Map | Morocco Map
The Rif mountain range has been fertile ground for marijuana growing and the consequent hashish production (the second is a processed version of the first) and consumption for hundreds of years, with Tangier being a major gateway to Europe for this controversial soft drug. Some love it, some love to hate it.
Backpackers travelling the region will be assumed to have an interest in buying at least small quantities of hash and the hassle factor of being pursued by dope merchants can be as tiresome as carpet seller antics in Marrakesh.
Still, Chefchaouen is a mellow town quite used to young people with an alternate agenda so this is one of the better places to get high in Morocco. Just be cool, you don't want to experience a Moroccan prison!
Outa el Hammam medina and kasbah, Chefchaouen.
The peak overlooking the town is Jebel el Kalaa and makes a challenging hike, taking as much as 9 hours to reach the peak and return. The route is not clearly marked all the way so be prepared for spontaneous self-navigation.
Shorter excursions are, of course, possible and will still yield sensational views and possibly sensational smells if you stumble across one of several substantial marijuana fields hereabouts. Don't worry about the kind of firepower you might find in similar plantations in southern USA; Morocco doesn't need them as the crop is not exactly illegal (well, it's a blind-eye situation) and widespread enough not to matter if someone helps themselves to a bud. But wandering foreigners are likely to be spotted by a goatherd and offered some hash instead.
Finally it's time for a hammam (hot baths/spa) and a munch on the local food speciality, goat's cheese, before heading off 60 kms (38 miles) to the Ketama district to investigate Rif kif more closely; alternatively and perhaps more sensibly head back to Fes, a pretty drive taking about three hours.
Skinny but apparently potent wacky weed drying out before processing.
Separating the wheat from the chaff, or more precisely the stems and seeds from the bud.
Dried and de-stemmed the plant is now ready to be squeezed into Ketama's Oro Negro hash.
Ketama is not a place that embraces the naive backpacker. It's a major production center for illegal drugs so inevitably home to a number of unsavoury people who may try to cheat you, rob you or sell dope and inform on you. If, however, you're reasonably mature, self-confident, speak some French and know what you're doing (such as Nikki D, photo above) Ketama is a fascinating and educational destination with a frisson on the side.
Read Kif in the Rif blog for a full story of a Ketama experience.