Morocco’s notorious Rif region, a mainly mountainous area in the north, stretching over 300km from Tangier in the west to the Melwiyya River in the east is a natural boarder between Europe and Africa. It is also an area synonymous with Marijuana production.
According to some sources, the country is home to approximately 220,000 acres of Marijuana fields and it is believed that Morocco produces nearly half the world’s hashish supplies.
Called “kif” by the locals, hashish takes on a new culture and power in the Rif Mountains; unfortunately this isn’t a positive thing. Despite the production, sale and use of Marijuana being illegal it is still a massive income for the country and one of its biggest exports. The areas reputation also attracts tourists only interested in getting stoned.
Unfortunately if you are travelling in this area the locals assume you are only interested in buying drugs. For us these vast limestone mountains with forests of towering oak and cedar should have offered up what the guidebook described as “One of Morocco’s most memorable journeys”.
With previous knowledge of the areas notoriety is was with no surprise that on arrival our vision was impaired by a thick dense cloud and seemingly the Rif was living up to its reputation. Upon opening Bee-bee’s windows and not being hit by a recognisable stench it become blatantly apparent that the dense cloud obscuring the road wasn’t a thick weed haze but a naturally occurring fog.
As with most criminal activity the drug business here is far from friendly, Ketama in particular is by all accounts a rough and dangerous place with plenty of scams involving tourists, drug dealers and the police. Driving through this busy town we didn’t see one woman.
The fog only exaggerated the seediness of the area as ghostly men desperate to make sales appeared through the haze at the side of the road and attempted to stop our car.
For most of our journey between Al Hoceima and the beautiful town of Chefchaouen visibility was at times down to about 15m. Driving on these narrow roads in such conditions, often with sheer cliff edges (we think) and impeding doom around every corner was not a pleasant experience.
Occasionally we’d make a futile attempt to wait for the fog to lift in small laybys. These were always hampered when our car was surrounded by groups of men who’d appear from the forest edge aggressively trying to make a sale. At times our car was tail-gated by gangs of menacing men in Mercedes and vans who overtook and attempted to stop our vehicle.
Sadly what should have been a spectacular drive through some of the countries most impressive scenery became quite a stressful 6-hour chore until we descended the 1500m high ridge and the fog cleared. Fortunately our final destination at the end of our perilous journey was the beautifully friendly town of Chefchaouen; restoring our faith in what is a wonderful country.