One of Morocco’s most memorable journeys is the 210-kilometre mountain road from Chefchaouen to Al Hoceima which weaves along high on the crests of the Rif mountains. Snow may occasionally block the road in winter but snowploughs soon restore the flow of traffic. The views for most of the year, however, are spectacular. Paul Bowles describes the route well in “The Rif, to Music” chapter of Their Heads Are Green – “mountains covered with olive trees, with oak trees, with bushes, and finally with giant cedars”.
The road from Chefchaouen sweeps steadily upwards through attractive countryside with olive farms, cork oaks and flowery hedgerows to reach the village of Bab Taza, where, suddenly, the feeling of being at altitude kicks in. Beyond Khamis Medik, the road runs through woods of various oak species with the richest cultivation in the Rif on the impressively deep slopes below, dotted with farms and the expensive and isolated villas that are testimony to the wealth generated by the cannabis trade. The road reaches its highest level at Bab Besen (1600m) where the landscape is covered in magnificent cedar forests.