Article: Mint tea, hashish, and rock & roll — the story of Tangier’s Cafe Baba

If it was good enough for the Stones, it’s good enough for me.

Tangier, the iconic port city of Morocco, has lured many artists, writers, scholars, spies, pirates and conquerors over centuries. It was where ‘the founder of Morocco’, Idris bin Abdallah, arrived in 789 after fleeing Baghdad, where French artist ​​Henri Matisse painted his famed Landscape Viewed from a Window in 1913 and where James Bond played by Daniel Craig went looking for clues in 2015’s Spectre.

It’s also where the inimitable Rolling Stones lazed around in the 1960s. One of their regular haunts was a hole-in-the-wall café amid the white buildings of the historic casbah from where you can stare across the Strait of Gibraltar at Spain. Called Cafe Baba, the family-operated safe haven of Mick Jagger and the other Stones still attracts many visitors, like myself, to this day.

The entrance to Cafe Baba tells the story of neglect that some of the other structures in the ancient seaside city also speak of. But it doesn’t seem to mind its dishevelled appearance. You go up faded stairs lined with plants to a small doorway with a simple sign hanging above it, featuring the cafe’s name in Arabic and English as well as the self-proclaimed title of being the ‘best cafe in the medina’. As you stand at the entrance, where the chipped tiles on the floor simply spell out Baba’s, you get a whiff of kif (also kief) — unpressed hashish mixed with tobacco, commonly smoked out of a ‘sebsi’ pipe.

Of Stones and sebsi pipes

Cannabis in Morocco is illegal on paper but according to locals, a small quantity won’t get you in trouble unless you’re smoking it on the streets. The country has been cultivating it for centuries and the mountainous area of Rif, which we passed on our drive from the blue city of Chefchaouen to Tangier, is best known for its marijuana plantations.

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