Fes, Morocco

Landscapes: Interior Areas of the Rif Mountains

Introduction to Landscapes: Interior Areas of the Rif Mountains

The Rif mountains extend from the west near Tanger and Cape Spartel all the way to Nador Province, close to the Algerian border. In the north, they extend right to the Mediterranean Coast and cover the terrain south for 150-200 kilometers. The western mountains receive considerably more rain than they do in the eastern regions and this is reflected in the main tree species being Atlas Cedar, Cork Oak and Holm Oak while Aleppo Pine, Maritime Pine and Tetraclinis dominate the eastern slopes. A new road (N16) extends all the way from the coast at Tetouan to the town of Jebha near the Massif des Bokkoyas (in Spanish). The Massif is a rock promontory with no roads and few inhabitants. A few years ago it was declared a National Park: Al Hociema National Park with an area of 470 sq. kilometers. The road from El Jebha heads up into the mountains, skirting the border of Parc National d’Al Hociema until it joins up with the older road (N2) between Hociema and Tarquist.  

The new road has yet to be discovered by most tourists and the infrastructure for tourism (especially lodging) is in it’s infancy stage. It’s easy to imagine this beautiful coast being developed into a primary tourist destination during the next decade or so. From El Jebha, I took a small rural road (P4113) south that heads directly through the mountains toward Ketema (Issaguen in Berber). It was a wonderful road for someone wanting to explore the Riffian landscape: the pastoral countryside, the enormous vistas of the mountains, very little traffic and, importantly, warm and friendly Berber inhabitants.

This unfortunately, changes once you cross over into Ketema Province which is where most of the marijuana cultivation can be found in Morocco. The livelihood of almost all the locals seems to depend upon selling kif or hashish and sadly this makes one’s stay in the Province a generally unpleasant experience. The both times I have visited the Province, I was continuously pursued by quite aggressive locals who assume the only reason someone might be in Ketema Province would be to buy cannabis products. While I personally have nothing at all against their agriculture or their commerce, this makes it almost impossible to relax and enjoy what is truly one of the most beautiful areas of Morocco. However, when one crosses the provincial border between Ketema Province and Tounate Province, everything changes again. No more cannabis fields, no more people trying to run you off the highway in order to attempt to sell their ‘products’.

I recently visited the great agricultural fair, the 9th International Fair of Agriculture in Morocco, held each May in Meknes. Each Province seems to have a booth where they display the agricultural products from their individual jurisdiction. One seems to be notably missing!

(Unless otherwise noted, all photo were taken on April 24, 2014.

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