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In Morocco, tourist routes of cannabis

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | A “kifficulteur” shows a sample of his hashish (cannabis resin) production near Ketama, in northern Morocco, on September 13, 2017

Travel guides and promoters of tourism in Morocco never talk about it. And yet, cannabis tourism attracts thousands of amateur visitors to this country every year.

“The climate here is very special, nothing pushes aside the kif!” Jokes Hassan, a forty-year-old met in a hotel in the northern Ketama region, considered “the mecca of hashish production”.

“This is our main asset,” says Hassan, who wears an ostentatious gold watch on his wrist and remains discreet about why he is going back and forth to Casablanca.

Sitting in the hotel bar, Beatrix, a 57-year-old German with a baba-cool look, rolls a joint in front of everyone. She who says she is “accustomed to the places” explains to have “fallen in love” with the region for “the quality of its hashish and the kindness of its inhabitants”.

In Morocco, where cannabis cultivation made 90,000 households live in 2013, according to the latest available official figures, selling or using drugs is prohibited by law.

But in Ketama, where abundant kif plantations greet visitors, hashish is part of the local heritage and its consumption is widely tolerated.

– ‘Bombola Ganja’ –

With friends, Beatrix organized in mid-September a “festival” in Ketama, the “Bombola Ganja” – in fact, an evening with friends smoking in front of the pool of the hotel. On the poster posted on the Facebook page of the event, cannabis plants relegate to the background DJs coming mix “psychedelic trance”. The organizers also slipped a message calling for the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Why did they choose Ketama? “Hard to answer,” Abdelhamid, the hotel manager, cautiously warned. “Some people are drawn to the mountains, the hikes, the climate,” he says, without mentioning the attraction of the local hashish culture.

A few thousand tourists come every year to Ketama, mainly from Europe, but also from big Moroccan cities. But “the region is not well exploited and there are dysfunctions (…), the roads are disastrous, water is lacking”, regrets the hotelier.

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | A German tourist in a field of cannabis plants, near Ketama, a region of northern Morocco known for its crops, in a country where cannabis is living tens of thousands of households

And the image of the city has declined with time. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ketama was very popular with hippies. But little by little, the destination began to drag out a reputation of “no-law zone” – the guide Routard even called in the late 1990s tourists to “absolutely ban” this region of their program.

“Tourism has declined sharply,” says Mohamed Aabbout, a local activist.

He also explains this disaffection by “the extension of kif culture to other cities in northern Morocco”.

– Blue city with green hand –

A hundred kilometers as the crow flies, the city of Chefchaouen, with its blue medina hung on the mountainside, has gradually delighted Ketama its position as a flagship destination.

With its picturesque houses, its intertwined alleys, paved alleys, the one called “Chaouen” is the capital of another region known for its kif production.

Here, small traffickers and false guides inevitably accost the tourists to propose hashish or a visit on farms to meet the “kifficulteurs”.

Some guest houses also offer this “service” for fifteen euros. Without mentioning it in their catalog.

On the terrace of a strategically located cafe, a man approaches potential buyers: “This is the best, brother!”, Says Mohamed, who exposes the newcomer his big hashball.

Is it not forbidden? “Here you can smoke wherever you want, but not in front of the police station!”, He jokes, before suggesting going to “the field” to see how “worked” the kif.

– Mexican, Afghan and beldia –

Mohamed accompanies a group of tourists a few kilometers in a poor village where the green fields extend as far as the eye can see.

“Here you have the Mexican plant, the Afghan, the beldia (local in Arabic)”, enumerates the guide. According to him, most farmers import seeds to obtain larger quantities.

A few meters away, young French people crisscross the plantations with a “guide”, a step prior to the “demonstration”.

The two groups find themselves in front of a modest farm where a farmer, after tapping on a bucket, recovers the powder that forms at the bottom, enters his workshop. He returns a few minutes later with the finished product.

Ⓒ AFP – FADEL SENNA – | The cultivation of cannabis is forbidden in Morocco but does not prevent many Moroccans from practicing it, most farmers import seeds that make it possible to obtain larger quantities

Village women attend the stage, looking amused, while chickens peck around the house.

“That goes straight to the city … Direct to Saint-Ouen!” in the Paris region, launches a onlooker, in tap and football jersey Paris-Saint-Germain, who has just bought 200 euros of cannabis.

Like these young people, many come to Chaouen for his kif.

The city has managed in a few years to expand the range of its visitors.

“Twenty years ago, tourists were mainly young Spaniards who came to smoke, now non-smokers also come to the blue of the city, very popular with Chinese tourists,” says the boss of a travel agency .

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