>Morocco Day 5-7: In the Rif (Rhymes with Kif) Mountains
>August 2-5, 2007–Chefchaouen
If Virginia is for lovers, Chefchaouen is for stoners.
It’s an international house of haze, with tokers, hash heads, and kif fiends buying, peddling, and smoking dope in every major European language (with entries from Eastern Europe and Morocco itself thrown in for good measure). There is, almost literally, nothing else to do there. The town, a mountain fortress founded in 1471 by Moorish exiles from Spain who were trying to fend off attacks by the Portuguese who were … Zzz zzzzz zzzzzzz. Sorry, I nodded off there for a sec.
Suffice it to say that Chefchaouen (شفشاون) is more-or-less peaceful, especially if you compare it to Marrakech. Moreover, virtually the entire town is painted in nice, restful shades of blue, which is probably exactly the color you want to see if you get hold of some bad herb or are just plain jonesing.
The central piazza, Place Uta el-Hammam, is surrounded by cafes and restaurants, all of which sell execrable food (but everything tastes good when you’ve got the munchies, right?). I’d single out for particular disdain the Restaurant Al-Kasbah which, though inexplicably popular with Spanish tourists, serves the most thoroughly foul paella ever concocted east of Pocatello, Idaho. Al-Kasbah went right onto the fast-growing list of Things Never To Do Again.
Still, the restaurants and cafes offer pleasant views on the piazza, which is hopping with drug commerce, especially in the evening. The waiters are stoned, the shopkeepers are stoned, the receptionist at your hotel is stoned, and the tie-dye wearing, bad-haircut, sweat-stained, backpack-laden, glazed-eyed and giggle-headed tourists are, it goes without saying, stoned.
No one believed us when we said we didn’t smoke, didn’t want to smoke, weren’t interested in buying anything to smoke, didn’t want to go to anyone’s house for a cool drink in order to talk about what they had to smoke. I think they thought we were just shy.
One interesting thing about Chefchaouen is that it is full of honeybees. If you order a glass of mint tea, which tends to be hyper-dulcified at diabetes-inducing levels, it comes with bees. Not four or five. A swarm. They put a small metal dish on top of your glass so the bees don’t get in. I had a Coke and the bees were buzzing around inside the bottle before I’d even taken a good pull.
The thing is, I suspect the bees are stoned, too, because they’re extremely unaggressive and don’t seem to mind when you swat at them with whatever comes to hand.
I’m not just being waggish. A 2005 study in Grana 44 (3), pp. 209-215, noted that, while Mentha pulegium and Mentha rotundifolia (species of mint) were the main pollen sources for honeybees in the Rif Mountains, Cannabis sativa was a significant secondary source.
In any event, I fished my bee out of my Coke bottle and rinsed him off with water so his (her?) wings wouldn’t stick together when the syrup evaporated. In fact, I didn’t kill a single bee (to my knowledge) while I was in Chefchaouen. I was much more interested in murdering the twenty-three-year-old Spanish guy with dred locks and the Grateful Dead T-shirt who insisted on playing Bob Marley at full blast on his boom box.