– Purple Soil

Somewhere in the Rif mountains, hidden away from the Lonely Planet trail, lies a gorgeous valley. People from all over the country come here to cure in and drink the waters from the river. At the waterfront they serve tagine and orangejuice. Up in the hills they serve the finest Hashish in the world.

At harvest time it becomes clear that the production of Hashish is an old business. It comprises agricultural engineering as well as elaborated modes of refinement and consumtion. Not at last it is the basis of a somewhat pariah lifestyle as the sale of Hashish is not exactly legal. The spirit of Abd El-Krim is still strong here. This, and the cheap availability of fertilizers (Morrocco is one of the main sources of phosphate in the world) makes the Rif Europe’s main source of Hash. The work of cutting down the plants by hand under the harsh Morrocan sun is backbreaking. Due to the shape of the land and the division into small business units it is still done by hand; it is family business. Once the plants are cut and bundled together, mules carry the massive weight of the still humid plants down the hills. There the weed gets laid out in the sun every morning only to be taken back in the evenings for weeks in autumn.
An old peasant sits with his grand children under a fig tree on the purple soil. They are having dinner: Tagine, french fries and watermelon. He invites me to join. They are resting before chopping the next field. It is concentrated work, sometimes they joke, sometimes they make a quick phone call. Their phones stay inside their plastic packs though, otherwise they would get ruined by the sticky brown polen that covers their hands. Nobody smokes here, the work is too hard for that, with bowed backs in the hot Moroccan sun.
After the harvest season the drumming starts.If you ever end up in a Rif – village just follow the drumming sounds and you will find men sitting in shacks beating the polen out of the weed. They will even sell you the best olive oil in the world – and whatever else you might want.

For the outsider it seems to be a heavenly place, for the inhabitants of many villages it is a life of hardship with no real perspective. You don’t get rich with the production of Hash and even if, you will have hard times spending your money – newly rich peasants are not very well liked in town.

Published in JWD Magazine (RIP)  12/2019.