In the Rif mountains, a little under halfway between Tangier and Fes, is the beautiful blue town of Chefchaouen. Its charming medina, stunning mountain vistas and a location in the heart of the Moroccan hash-growing district have made it an international hippie destination, spoken of in terms of no uncertain awe in the hostels to its north.
One arrives by air-conditioned coach, sidling through valleys, past lush farmland, rocky outcrops and increasingly impressive peaks. The bus station is located at the lowest point in the town, a walk I and the assorted group I arrived with foolishly undertook. Our journey ended at a messy and unclean hostel, each of us drenched in sweat and barely cleaner than the squat toilet slash shower that was located off the lobby. “Lobby”. My thighs had sweated so much that my underwear was literally sodden. I’m not exaggerating.
I and a Canadian were forced to sleep in a corridor, me inside a linen sack. This was deeply unpleasant. The next morning we checked out and moved to Hotel Souika, which proved to be a huge mistake following awful, unacceptable, behaviour from a member of staff.* (See below.) For the purposes of the rest of this post, I think it is important to point out here that I don’t really like hash.
As one walks alongside Chefchaouen medina’s baby blue walls, 90s house music and R&B pump from most storefronts, and one is repeatedly offered hash, opium, heroin, coke. (No booze.) The stalls sell trinkets aimed at hippies, the restaurants are open all day, even in Ramadan. Though it is a pleasant place, it is a town that has sold its soul to the hideous demon of the hippie-stoner-tourist dollar/pound/euro.
There are plenty of hash-casualties littering the rooftops of the hostels, the forty plus contingent grinning in the squares, the twenty-somethings breakfast-spliffing, the Home Counties/US West Coast Politics/Marketing/Philosophy graduates wearing native (Moroccan) dress and “feeling so fucking good right now”, living in their now, living in their heads, living in Chefchaouen for weeks at a time, buying hash from the locals, swimming in the river, taking pictures of the blue walls but refusing, absolutely refusing, to drink the tap water cuz it’s like Africa, man, innit?
I’m not into hash enough to be content with the place. Also, there was a couple there from my home town, a discovery that began the growing panicky sensation that concluded with the massive overdose the paragraph after next ends with. (I alsowent for a hike up a mountain to a waterfall, stunning sublime scenery, but as I intend to write about that properly in a few months’ time I won’t bother now.)
Checking out of Hotel Souika, the Canadian and I asked if we could leave our bags in the hostel for a few hours, until our coach. (We believe that the person we spoke with was the manager. I hope this is wrong.) There was a sign in the entrance offering free luggage storage, I said, NOT adding that that was one of the reasons why we selected the hostel the morning before. The shaven-headed, pot-bellied, toothless, vest-wearing, baseball cap-packing cunt of a manager** responded, flared up, exploded, “You can’t expect me to store this for free! You can’t leave your bag here! You leave your bag here, it will get stolen. NOT MY FAULT!” He wagged a flabby finger at my face, sneered, leered, shouted, made further threats, made it pretty clear that he hated me and wanted to steal my possessions, I left, noticed that the sign advertising free luggage storage had been taken down as I put my pack on, pointed this out to the Canadian, then a moment later the obese manager waddles outside, armpit hairs curling over his ragged polyester top, grabs his genitals in his right hand, shakes his flabby, gland-filled fist at me and yells, in the street, in public, in the doorway of a business I believe he was running, “KISS MY DICK!” then lumbered back inside. I think the overweight goon was probably too used to pushing around stoners to engage in casual service-minded conversation with a paying customer.
He scared me, scared me a lot (perhaps a little racistly), and I thundered to Chefchaouen’s main square, threw my pack into the dust and did my Tangier arrival trick of gobbling every pill in my bag I could quickly fucking find. Fading fast. I’m fading fast.
In short, Chefchaouen is a beautiful town RUINED, absolutely RUINED by hippies. Go see it. But get out quick unless you LOVE marijuana.
(Don’t worry about me, mother.)
* The hostel we had checked out of – due to the lack of unavoidable beds – had lovely staff – kind, genuine and fans of jazz. I’m not naming it because I have criticised, yet would hate to cause offence.
** No bias intended. Please do note that I have now been dry five days and fully celibate for over two weeks. My anxiety is now focused as much on the terror of a knife attack as it is on having a wet dream in a shared dormitory. What would I do? Seriously. I’d like answers to that. If/when it happens, I will blog in as much detail as I can.