Chefchaouen Stories and Tips

Kif in the Rif: The Non-Smoker's Hike

Cemetery Above Chefchaouen Photo, Chefchaouen, Morocco

Chefchaouen (or Chaouen, as it's more often called in Morocco) is known for two things: its blue-and-white-splashed medina and its cannabis. Having explored the lovely medina extensively, we set off on a guided hike in the Rif Mountains to learn about the city's cannabis culture. On the short trek, we got an education in kif from a local, and great views of the city to boot.

As we walked uphill from the medina, we passed a white-washed cemetery, and our guide talked about burial customs in Morocco. He said that the reason these graves don't include name markers is that the families come often enough to never forget which is which. He talked about families breaking fast over graves during Ramadan, and about reburials that take place 35 years after death. As he spoke, the midday call to prayer echoed in the valley below.

We climbed further away from the medina and into the marijuana fields (or what would have been marijuana fields had we not arrived post-harvest). Our guide spoke of the regional and national attitudes toward kif (basically, its generally overlooked and largely exported to Europe, and he claimed that there are no fights over ownership of the plants, nor any poaching of neighbors' leaves). He also talked about the history of smoking in Morocco, from when kif was sold in the markets in the early 1900s to when English-hippie visitors made kif into hash in the 1960s to today's general acceptance. It's been banned by the French, made legal by the Spanish, and, it seems, enjoyed by just about everyone. Our guide himself started smoking the local specialty at 9 or 10 years old (he gave it up 25 years ago, though).

The tour didn't include smoking, but it did include plenty of interesting history and conversation (and how-to advice!), and lovely views of Chefchaouen and giant olive presses in the fields.

I've read that other IgoUgo members were offered hash on every street corner in Chefchaouen, and I didn't find that to be the case at all (maybe because I'm a woman). There's no question that it's a huge part of local culture, though, and has been for a very long time, so a little kif hike in the Rif is a nice introduction to the beloved pastime.

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