A few hours drive from Rabat, Fez or Casablanca are the Rif Mountains. Home to myriad caves, inhabited by the local Berbers, who bring forth hashish in its most pure form. Relaxing in one of the Rif's caves is an experience that makes Morocco a perfect destination for all avid smokers.
Morocco has been called the Mecca of hashish, as it is the largest producer of high quality product in North Africa. According to some sources, the country is home to approximately 220,000 acres of marijuana ready for cultivation. According to government agencies, such as The United Nations and the CIA, Morocco is the most consistent producer of hashish, with approximately 30,000 pounds harvested each year.
With tribal independence, Moroccan Bedouins assert their ability to grow marijuana in abundance despite the lack of water and the overpopulation of the best areas for cultivation in the country. The government has attempted to curtail production, yet has proven incapable of hindering the thousands of people who come to Morocco and head to the mountains in search of the spiritual journey hashish can bring. It is in this small North African nation that world travelers come in order to indulge themselves in hashish only dreams can compare to. Every visitor speaks of their experience in the caves as something all hashish smokers should experience.
Two American students studying abroad said their experiences in Morocco centered upon these caves and the study of hashish. It was here, they learned the most about Morocco, its culture and people, as well as the love for hashish. While I only had one day in the mountains, the students' narration spoke to me as if it was my own experience. The hashish high, which permeates throughout the upper portions of the head, gives the smoker a feeling of weightlessness and spiritual nirvana. The high is different than that of marijuana. Hashish gives a feeling in the brain that allows for a sort of otherworldly experience that marijuana just cannot give. The full body intoxication is a feeling only Moroccan hashish brings, they said. It is the best high in the world and makes even the casual smoker wish for hashish when only marijuana is available.
The Rif Mountains have their own culture. Sitting in a cave with a group of Bedouins is something most people only dream about. Listening to the distinct music of the area ? a cross between North African Rai music, popular Arabic music, and traditional Moroccan tunes ? while puffing away on a hash joint, is an experience people will not soon forget. It defines their experience in the country.
Called "kif" by the locals, hashish takes on a new culture and power in the Rif Mountains.
It was not surprising to see hundreds gathered around televisions watching the latest soccer match. Then, as if the match was not as entertaining as they had thought, the men slowly walk out of the caf? and head to the caves, picking up the somewhat confused Americans on the way. The night had begun, and the entr?e was hashish mixed with tobacco in a spliff, or packed into a pipe for full flavor. Either way, the night was to produce experiences that all smokers seek to take on.
Beginning around 11PM, a group of Americans, other Westerners, and Bedouins, head to the arranged cave to begin puffing. Often, but not always, a shisha, or hookah, is set up, giving the ambience that has come to define the Middle East. These are the best caves in which to relax for hours. The night is rather unexciting for the nonsmoker, as the hours go by in a hypnotizing fervor. Hashish is consumed in large quantities, making the Westerners and locals high enough to enjoy each other's company despite the language barrier. The language of the night is easily understood as the first spliff is lit and passed from person to person. It is a language that has no boundaries or barriers. Tensions that could arise from two people are quickly dismantled as everyone falls into the illusion that time does not exist. The power of hashish is understood almost as soon as the first cloud of smoke is exhaled from the mouth.
Obtaining hashish can prove too easy at times and according to the experienced marijuana citizen in Morocco, this can prove dangerous as well. I was told never to buy hashish unless I was with someone who had done it before as the repercussions can be immense. Moroccans often stop an unsuspecting visitor on the road toward the Rif, in the hope of selling hashish at exorbitant rates. According to the students I talked to who lived in Rabat for months, "never buy hashish on the road" because searches by police on the roads toward the Rif are anything but fun. They said there is no need to purchase hashish before getting to the Rif as the villagers and inhabitants of the mountains have enough to share. They were right; the Rif has its own supply that whetted my appetite when I caught a glimpse of rooms filled with hashish.
As I was only able to manage one night in the Rif, the Americans' experiences in Morocco give much more insight into the use of hashish in the country. All first time users in the country are cautioned to be wary, as the hashish in Morocco is much stronger than the limited amount available elsewhere. The Moroccan strain of hashish is homegrown, which makes the experience that much more inviting. Because Moroccans don't add anything to the substance, it makes smoking a very risky endeavor until the smoker is experienced in the craft. Just make sure to start slow before heading to the all night smoking sessions that Moroccans love, or you could end up feeling very ill and not truly enjoying the niceties. Take it easy and the enjoyment of hashish will enter the heart as quickly as the Moroccan desert enters the soul.
Although individuals will undoubtedly make their own memories in the Moroccan caves, it is the experience of those that have gone before that allow for the fullest and most enlightening journey to unfold smoothly. As the two students show us, hashish can be the gateway toward a better understanding of different cultures, and can give the visitor an appreciation for these cultures so often seen as violent, especially in this age. Hashish in Morocco can be the catalyst for the building of a bridge that has been burned by authorities in the East and West. Hashish has no barriers and all those who have witnessed the greatness of the cannabis plant will continue to show the world what the caves and spliffs can give.
While my experience was limited, the stories of these travelers and students resonate in my being everyday. I only wish I could have stayed for months, lighting up spliff after spliff with the locals. This is hopefully only the beginning of understanding the important roles of hashish and culture in our world.