An American Abroad

Recruited as a Drug Mule

I wandered around Chefchaouen alone while Spencer napped back at the hotel. I climbed to one of the highest points in the medina, an area not on the must-see-for-tourists list. Though the walls were still washed with Chefchaouen blue, the alleyways looked a little down at the heels.

I was here.

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What you see in the left side of the photo is not a body of water, but is rather the top of the clouds that blanket the valley below. As I gazed out at this strange scene, a Berber man came out of one of the houses and struck up a conversation. It was the usual where-are-you-from, is-this-your-first-time-here talk. He introduced himself to me as Michael. Right.

Our talk turned quickly to hashish. This was not unusual. As we walked around Chefchaouen, Spencer and I were often approached by young men offering us the Rif Mountains’ most famous product. I frequently smelled the sweet odor of burning hash as I walked around. Sometimes I wondered if half the town was baked.

Anyway, I politely declined Michael’s offer, but he persisted. A woman came out of the same house and came over to us. Michael introduced her as his wife and invited me in to share tea with them. Again I demurred.

Undeterred, Michael laid his cards on the table. He had (or had access to) twenty kilos of hashish, which he wanted me to smuggle to some guy in California. I would be well paid for my services.

While Michael was laying out his business proposal, his wife was eyeing me hungrily with barely-disguised sexual interest.

There are so many ways this could go horribly wrong, I thought. Was Michael or his wife wearing a wire? Would Michael take murderous offense to the way his wife was sizing me up? Or was her nonverbal offer just part of the recruitment effort? Were there other confederates nearby waiting to ply me with less pleasurable persuasion?

Choosing my words carefully, I said that I had to meet someone just then, but suggested that Michael and I exchange phone numbers and contact each other the following day. Of course, I didn’t mention that I planned to be long gone by then. To my relief, Michael was amenable to my suggestion. We traded numbers. Then he fished into his pocket and gave me a small rock of hashish — a free sample, he said. I thanked him, pocketed it, shook his hand, and headed back to the Casa Miguel Guesthouse where we were staying.

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Once I was in our room, I took the rock out of my pocket and considered my options. Though hash use is pretty widespread in Chefchaouen, it is against Moroccan law and carries significant penalties. No way was that worth the risk. A little sadly, I flushed the rock.

By the time Michael called me the next day, I was in a car halfway to Casablanca. I deleted his number and his call and trashed my Moroccan SIM card at the airport.

Maybe I was being excessively cautious. But no way was I going to even consider for a moment a career as a drug mule. The very extravagance of the proposition made me a little amused — and a little anxious.

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