Nina’s Travel Rule #15: Unidentified Brown Nose Powder in Morocco is Probably Tobacco??

Me in my Sand Man Suit. Which I love. And actually successfully bargained for! To local price!

It’s either a sign that your trip is going amazingly or that you’re about to be hauled off to die in a foreign prison, when you turn to your friend about two days into the voyage and say:

“Omg.  We just snorted unidentified brown powder up our noses.  That we got from a strange man we met on a train.  In his house, where we’ve come for lunch, in Morocco.  Wtf??”

And she answers: “Yup.”

This has occurred, as do so many of my disasters, because I’d once again decided to skip Christmas state-side in favor of a country where they not only generally don’t have snow, but aren’t even Christian!  That’s right, no Jesus, no Santa, no xmas trees in the fucking malls from October 1st onwards.  Joy 🙂  Plus, like, it’s Morocco!  Hats that gave the fez to Fez!  Camels and Shisha!  Sand Man Suits, just like in Star Wars (umm, I mean, the traditional djellaba, of course…)!  So we’re American, and they’re Muslim, and it’s 2008 so the rest of the world has been pissed off at our idiotic fearless leader for nearly a decade, so what!  I speak French, my friend speaks nothing, and I can say “hello”, “thank you”, “god bless”, “if god is willing and might could maybe feel like it”, and “fuck off” in Arabic.  What more cultural awareness could we possibly need?

Camels!

Everything started off well.  Flew into Casablanca on Christmas day (it’s a miserable pit, btw) and were staggered by the noise and crowds and mosques and poverty and souks and just about everything else for the whole trip.  Morocco is beautiful, and the cities are crumbling, living memories of a thousand years ago.  I’ve read and heard a shit-ton of crap about how awful the country is, poverty-stricken (although we were there before the Arab Spring, back when people still just shut up and took it quietly…), filthy, obnoxiously offensive about bargaining and selling you shit you couldn’t possibly want, ripping off the tourists at every turn, sexist white-woman-raping men, blah blah blah.  I am here to faithfully report: every bit is true, and I couldn’t give a shit.  Well, except the “grab that white chick’s ass and make lewd comments” bit.  We were treated with nothing but respect as women the whole time we were there.  This could be because it was cold as fuck and we were wearing more clothes than the local chicks, but still.  Every other bit is pretty dead on though, which is how we got into the aforementioned dilemma…

Took the train out of Casablanca (yes, I’m a train freak, but this one is SO bloody nice!  It’s cheap and quick and really very pleasant, and it runs well and on time ’cause the French built it, and everyone should really try it once…) and promptly passed out.  Huh, maybe that’s why I like trains, so soothing and I’m hardly ever awake for the icky bits… Woke up to find a strange, rather rotund Moroccan man staring unabashedly at us in the compartment in which we had definitely passed out solo. Turns out he looooooves Americans (wtf??) and just adores when they come to his country?  So we chat, blah blah, and he invites us over for lunch, his wife will cook, and we will meet his small daughter.  At the time this sounded totally normal, I mean, you hear about the friendly North African culture and all, right?  Everyone should feed us lunch, when you think about it!

a berber making us mint tea... in preparation for selling us carpets 😦

To skip ahead, the train lands in Marrakesh, we stop for some tea (Mint tea.  Boiling.  With an entire bush of fresh mint in it.  It’s the only way to go…), hop in his car, and drive to a small hovel somewhere waaaay out of town.  His wife evinces zero surprise that her husband has brought home two strange Yankees (does he do this often?  are we about to be mugged?  No!  he’s gonna sell us something, I know it!) and proceeds to feed us a smorgasbord of deliciousness never to be surpassed on this trip.  It centered around some sort of magnificent goats’ cheese pizza-esque thing (never even to be matched again.  In a country with approximately 9,347,959,167.473 goats, how is there no cheese? and, more importantly, why???), which we inhaled before meeting the daughter, who was indeed adorable.  Moroccan man (was his name Hamid?  I think it was.  It was either that or Mohammad anyway, since those are the only two male names in Morocco) then produces one of the ubiquitous little plastic baggies that we’ve noticed every male in Morocco snorting out of from time to time.  I’d decided previously that it was snuff, rather than a more potent sort of nose candy, based solely on two observations: one, our cab dude did it in the cab in broad daylight, and two, I don’t think they grow coca in North Africa?  Could be wrong though, don’t really do drugs…  But really, what else is brown and goes up your nose?  After Hamid snorts a giant glob of brown crap, he politely offers us the baggie.  And I think:

Well, the man’s invited us into his home, we’ve played with his daughter and been fed by his wife.  Really it would just be rude to not accept his poop-colored nose candy, right?

So I have some.  And Jesus Fuck Me it is delicious!  It’s like I just stuck 15 lit cigarettes into my brain, but in a good way?  I still have a suspicion it’s tobacco, but certainly not of any type I’ve ever tried.  It’s definitely not hashish, or anything hallucinatory, and other than that I haven’t a clue.  Somewhat mind-blown and fairly confuddled, I pass the bag to my friend and commence an immediate and fairly violent sneezing fit.  Hamid laughs uproariously.  Repeat that process with White Girl Number Two and our Moroccan friend is now losing his shit, he’s cracking up so badly.  What the crap have we just put up our noses??

When Hamid returns with oranges (dessert) and tap water (dysentery provider / sneeze prevention) we ask him just this question, and he replies enigmatically: Niffyhah.  I should point out that this spelling is my own, since I’ve tried to figure out what this shit is for the past three years, yet still haven’t the faintest clue.  Also we thought it looked cooler spelled that way.

Hamid, our host and supplier 🙂

To summarize the next two weeks of covert reconaissance work:

Niffyhah is definitely snuff.

Niffyhah is almost definitely tobacco-based.

Niffyhah may or may not contain what people variously refer to as “other shit”, “good shit”, or “Berber herbs”.  I do not know what this means.

Niffyhah is indeed sold in pharmacies (seriously??), but only the shitty kind, you know, without the Berber herbs.

Niffyhah may or may not be illegal, legal, or questionable.  Never quite determined.

The good Niffyhah is procured on the street, as in when a vendor told us he’d go find some if we watched his stall in the souk for 10 minutes and split the baggie with him.  We’d been trying to get some more for like, 4 days since we left Hamid, and clearly thought this was a fabulous deal.  I’m not sure what we were supposed to do with his stall, as my Moroccan bargaining skills only succeeded once (yes, I do now own my very own Sand Man Suit, and it is AWESOME), and I don’t think “fuck off” or “god willing” would convince an Arabic speaker to purchase anything…  But we successfully held down the fort, and then there was Niffyhah 🙂

The efficacy of Niffyhah at producing violent sneezing fits abates quickly.

The efficacy of Niffyhah at producing really disgusting brown snot increases quickly and does not abate, explaining why most Moroccan men carry foul-ass handkerchiefs around in their pockets.  And yes, we did indeed follow suit.

Snorting of Niffihah is healthy.  Smoking of tobacco is healthy.  However, snorting of Niffyhah AND smoking of tobacco is decidedly cancerous and should be avoided.  I’m not making this shit up, I swear.  After the first time I heard this gem, I asked literally every person I spoke to for their opinion on the matter, and it is unanimous: either one is cool, but the combo will definitely kill ya.

The Niffyhah. Also a dead goat. ?

So anywho, another successful trip.  The Niffyhah was delicious, no harm no foul, and no, we’re not gonna talk about how we never saw my checked bag again after trying to get the remains of our baggie of joy back home through Amsterdam airport…

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