Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
I was more than willing to stop. It was an unplanned stop, an additional day in Morocco and extra costs would be added, but I could tell that my driver wanted to stop driving for the day and I agreed with his proposal. His name is Mohamed and he is driving me, fasting, not drinking any liquids, going all day without smoking tobacco plus he is away from his wife and three young boys. And he also forgot to bring his sunglasses. I told him I had no schedule, only destinations.
Mohamed speaks understandable english and his taxi is the one Omar placed me in on the night of my arrival in Fes. He was glad we stopped for the night. Photographing the blue house town of Chefchaouen, about two hours northwest, could wait a day.
The owner was standing beside the road. After he got in our 2WD sport utility vehicle, we made a U turn and drove a short distance back uphill then down a steep, narrow rocky drive on the side of the hill, best driven in 4WD. We were invited into the walled compound where we would spend the night. An hour after our mid afternoon arrival, the owner and my driver were napping, taking a Ramadan siesta. I was enjoying the view and again wondering if this was really happening.
I sat in a plastic chair and absorbed the valley below.
Thunder rumbled from the mountains in the distance beyond the valley. The frequency of thunder increased and soon a light rain shower moistened the parched, rocky hillsides. It was the first rain of my walkabout. The shower cleared the air and cooled things off. Parts of the valley were in sunshine and others were being sprinkled with rain. It is dry and the area could use some rain. The sound of roosters and songbirds was briefly interrupted by the call to prayer from a mosque. The distant call to prayer, in places like this – is mesmerizing.
Apple, fig, two varieties of pear, olive trees provide shade around the hillside home. Grape vines interlace the fruit trees and small birds abound.
Below, between the hillside home of the owner, several miles and 1000 feet lower in elevation is a small town. The entire valley is growing cannabis, on every farmable piece of land. Everywhere you look – for miles and miles – nothing but cannabis. The plants are 1-3 months into their 7 month cycle. Harvest is in November, then the rain and snow starts.
My host, the owner, asked if I wanted to go with him to purchase some food for ‘breakfast’, the first meal of the day after sunset on day 2 of Ramadan. It is the time of the crescent moon, the symbol of Islam.
We walked out of the walled compound and up the hill to the paved road. He made a phone call and soon a taxi appeared and took us to a small town. We gained elevation, pine trees appeared and the cultivation of cannabis decreased. Bread, milk and fruit juice were purchased at little stores. Even with the large amount of hash sold locally, the place is poor. If you do not own growing land you work on someone else’s land. Pot is almost the entire economy. The owner is not rich, but he lives comfortably with flat screen TVs, nice house and furniture, car, etc.
Farmable land in the entire region is often terraced and it is easy to see where the soil is fertile and moist versus the rocky highlands where irrigation is required. Pot is growing everywhere. There are no other crops being produced like hay, wheat or vegetables.
50% of the world’s hashish is grown here.
The region is very similar geographically to the western side of the Sierras of the same elevation – between 4000 to 5000 feet in elevation. I read that the King granted an exception to cannabis cultivation to those that live here because the rocky, dry, steep hillsides are not good enough for growing anything else. It is legal but kept low key. And it is grown everywhere you look.
I had a tour of the pressing room. The sifted kief is compacted with a hand press. There was another press for extracting hash oil. The owner had some hash oil in a metal pot that was 10” in diameter and there was about an inch of the gooey, thick black hash oil resting on bottom. On a counter on the other side of the room sat a plastic tub two feet in diameter containing over 30 kilo of hash. “Commercial grade” I was told.
The owner explained everything, answering all my questions. I will hang out here at the owner’s home until till sunset, then eat breakfast with Mohamed and the owner and then crash right here.
Here is a good link: