Posted by: escapethecube | January 19, 2009

“Kef the Reef, my friend. Get high before you die.” – A lesson in Moroccan “hard sales” tactics.


With smooth cobble stone streets lined with sacks of exotic spices, thin alley ways painted in light shades of blue, and the smells of fresh couscous and lamb billowing from every local restaurant, it is not hard to imagine why the Riff mountain town of Chefchaouen in northern Morocco is a sought after destination.

However, Chefchaouen’s beauty is not its primary attraction. In fact, most of the town’s rug shops and restaurants seem only to be “fronts” for the real source of revenue . . . marijuana. Thats right pot, hash, dope, hashish, mary jane, or whatever you want to call it is not only prevalent and easy to obtain, but the main source of this small mountain town’s existence.

Located on the edge of Morocco’s marijuana growing region, Chefchaouen is a much sought after destination for those looking to “score some cheap hash at good price”. Never mind the fact that it is extremely illegal (landing you over 10 years in Moroccan jail), the towns dependence on its revenue keeps the local authorities entirely at bay and invites anyone and their brother to become a product dealer.

During our visit, we were unable to walk through town for more than ten minutes at a time without being aggressively assaulted with direct sales pitches like, “Get high before you die, my friend?” or “kef the reef? I get you good price!”

Direct and persistent pitches are the strategy with the local dealers and it is not uncommon to be followed and badgered for 2 – 3 minutes at a time while walking through town. “No” would seem to translate pretty easily into both French and Spanish (the other two main languages spoken in Chefchaouen, besides Arabic), however our attempts at a polite refusal provoked little reaction. As it so happens, two bearded, dirty, backpack bearing, 20-somethings seem to fit the perfect “target market” profile.

Alley way chefchaouen

Alley way chefchaouen

Tossing ourselves in to a Muslim society has prompted its share of questions. What is being yelled from the mosque speakers multiple times a day? What is up with the long ropes and pointy hoods? Do they ever get sick of mint tea? But most intriguing, especially in Chefchaouen, is the level of contradiction caused by their strict dress code, persistent prayer, and perversion to alcohol . . . yet reliance on marijuana revenue to sustain their livelihoods.

Although invasive and annoying, we did not let the “hard” sales tactics ruin our time in Chefchaouen and spent an entire day hiking deep into the Riff mountains. Past local villages and rushing mountain streams, we were offered a glimpse of life as a rural Moroccan. Young boys herding goats, donkeys weaving down trails strapped down with tea leave branches, and women collecting tall grass for basket weaving – all working in the same manner as was done 100 years ago.

While our daily activities of sipping mint tea in the square of the Medina (walled portion of the town) and listening to the call to prayer has remained constant since our days in Marrakech and Fez, the remote mountain location and pure beauty of Chefchaouen has provided our first jaw dropping experience and in turn affirmed our beliefs that this trip would bring us to some amazing locations.
Amazing not only in its shear exotic beauty, but in its extreme difference from home.

(See below for video tours of Chefchaouen and the Riff Mountains)


  1. Love the blog guys…i especially love that nick has decided to grace us with yet another hard breathing video 🙂 im so jealous and proud of you guys!!! I cant wait to read and see more 🙂

  2. Gents,

    Four things:

    1) Ron, love the hiking shorts . . .I always knew you loved showing off some leg

    2) Nick, I second Megan . . .you love the heavy breathing videos . . . reminds me of Snowdonia

    3) Great blog . . .keep the posts coming! A few more and I may just have to jump over and join you

    4) Where is the “And now, the original . . .Marrakesh Dance!”?

    Enjoy guys . . I hate not being there with you!

  3. Amazing!
    Bro’s we all know that that wasn’t wind but Nick’s out of shape panting.

    Keep the posts, pictures, and vids coming. I love it.

    Get on twitter so I know what your doing moment by moment!

  4. Ron, I always enjoy your classic, 1 knee up pose during hiking adventures. Also, you appear to be getting very good with children…they customarily run away crying.

    Nice work boys.

  5. Nick told me he was in shape enough to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro or K2. I guess he shouldn’t have any pints now that he’s back in London. Heck, he’s been off the alcohol for 2 weeks anyway. Might as well quit now. Have fun and be safe.

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