It may not feature in Morocco’s official tourism brochures but cannabis attracts thousands of visitors a year to the North African country.
At a hotel bar in the northern region of Ketama, German tourist Beatrix made no attempt to hide the joint she was rolling.
The 57-year-old said she had fallen in love with the area for “the quality of its hashish and the friendliness of its residents”.
Hassan, a 40-something sporting a conspicuous gold watch, said cannabis was “our main source of wealth”.
“The climate here is very special. Nothing grows here except kif,” he said, using a Moroccan name for the drug.
Northern Morocco is a key production centre for hashish for export to Europe, but it has also seen traffic in the other direction — an influx of European visitors heading to sample the local pleasures.
While Moroccan law bans the sale and consumption of the drug, that has not stopped farmers growing vast plantations of it, providing a living for some 90,000 households, according to official figures for 2013, the most recent available.
Smoking kif is seen as part of the local culture, and is largely tolerated by the authorities.
Beatrix was among the organisers of the mid-September “Bombola Ganja” festival, essentially an evening gathering of smokers at a hotel swimming pool.
Cannabis leaves appeared prominently on the poster on Facebook for the event, alongside the names of trance DJs and a call for cannabis to be legalised for medicinal purposes.
Ketama hosts thousands of tourists a year, mostly from Europe but also from other parts of Morocco.
“People are attracted by the mountains, the hiking, the climate,” hotel director Abdelhamid said.
But it has also been famed for its cannabis since the 1960s, when it became popular with hippies seeking the high life.
Later it gained a reputation for lawlessness, and by the late 1990s guidebooks were advising tourists to avoid the region entirely.
“Tourism saw a sharp decline,” Mohamed Aabbout, a local activist, told AFP, adding that “the extension of kif culture to other cities in northern Morocco” was partly to blame.
Hashish has helped put the town of Chefchaouen, high in the hills 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the west and now buzzing with visitors, well and truly on the map.
“Twenty years ago, the tourists were mainly young Spaniards who came to smoke,” one local tour operator said.
“Now, non-smokers also come for the blue of the city, highly appreciated by Chinese tourists.”
Famed for its narrow alleys lined with striking blue houses, the town is also the main urban centre of a region famed for its cannabis production.
Small-time dealers and unlicensed guides approach tourists to offer them hashish or a tour of nearby farms to meet the “kifficulteurs” — local cannabis producers.
Chefchaouen guesthouses offer a similar service for around $18 (15 euros), although they are careful not to mention it in their brochures.
On the terrace of a strategically located cafe, dealer Mohamed approached potential buyers, showing them a large pellet of hash and offering a “field visit” to see how the cannabis is processed.
After gathering a group of tourists, he took them to a nearby village.
Standing in a field, with cannabis plantations covering the hillsides as far as the eye can see, he pointed out the varieties being cultivated.
“Here you have the Mexican plant, the Afghan and the beldia (Arabic for domestic),” he said.
Most farmers in the area import seeds in order to ensure a bigger harvest, he said.
Nearby, a group of young French tourists crossed the plantation with another guide.
The two groups met in front of a modest building where a farmer tapped a container full of cannabis clippings, collecting the finely powdered resin in a bucket below.
Dressed in a Paris Saint-Germain football jersey, one of them said he had just bought a batch of the drug worth $230 (200 euros).
Women from the village watched the scene with amusement as chickens pecked around the cottage.
The farmer took the bucket to his workshop and returned a few minutes later with the finished product — a block of hashish.
“Here, you smoke where you want, except in front of the police station,” Mohamed said.
Nigeria Football Federation boss Amaju Pinnick under fresh corruption probe
Several properties belonging to top officials of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), including its president Amaju Pinnick, have been seized in a fresh corruption probe.
The latest investigation and seizures are being carried out by the country’s Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC).
The ICPC has published a newspaper advertisement about the properties seized – half of which belong to Pinnick.
According to the statement published in the Nigerian papers one of Pinnick’s properties is in London.
It comes amidst wide-ranging claims over how money meant for football development allegedly disappeared.
“We can’t go into further details beyond the fact that many officials of the NFF are under investigation,” ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa said.
“It’s basically because what they have is in excess of what they have earned.”
The ICPC has also taken control of properties belonging to the NFF second vice-president Shehu Dikko and the general secretary Muhamed Sanusi among others.
Rwanda ban Burundi,s music star ahead of annual festival
Burundian musician Jean Pierre Nimbona, popularly known as Kidum, has told the BBC he is confused by Rwanda’s decision to ban him from playing at the upcoming Kigali Jazz Fusion festival.
Kidum is one of Burundi’s biggest music stars and has performed in Rwanda for the past 16 years.
But a police official phoned the musician’s manager to warn that he would only be allowed to make private visits to Rwanda.
“[My manager was told] Kidum is not supposed to perform, tell him to leave. If he comes for private visits fine, but no performances,” the musician told BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.
The mayor of Rwanda’s capital said that in this instance permission had not been sought from the authorities for him to perform at the festival in Kigali.
Kidum was a leading peace activist during Burundi’s civil war between 1993 and 2003 and used his songs to call for reconciliation.
The 44-year-old musician said he had never had problems with Rwandan authorities until recently when three of his shows were cancelled at the last minute – including one in December 2018.
That month Burundi had banned Meddy, a musician who is half-Burundian, half-Rwandan, from performing in the main city of Bujumbura.
Kidum said he was unsure if the diplomatic tensions between Burundi and Rwanda had influenced his ban.
“I don’t know, I don’t have any evidence about that. And if there was politics, I’m not a player in politics, I’m just a freelance musician based in Nairobi,” he said.
He said he would not challenge the ban: “There’s nothing I can do, I just wait until maybe the decision is changed some day.
“It’s similar to a family house and you are denied entry… so you just have to wait maybe until the head of the family decides otherwise.”
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