Morwrongco (Unpleasantries)

19 Aug

One guy in town offered “50 camels for Sammi.” Except it was only 25.  And I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

Traveling around the world sounds glamorous, but sometimes it isn’t.  Here are a few times I suffered in Morocco:

I pulled over on a dirt road, I’d hoped to get good rest.  Windows up, doors locked, I tucked myself into bed early.  An hour later, once it was well-dark, a car (the first one I’d seen in an hour) aggressively pulled up next to me, stopped, and 5 men jumped out, yelling in Arabic.
My heart was in my throat.
They surrounded my vehicle and I frantically turned the key to start the car (not easy as it was a stick shift and I was in my sleeping bag).  The men rapped on the glass, trying to get me to open my windows.
Definitely no.
I considered driving but they were blocking me in on all sides and I’d have had to hit one of them in order to continue.  We were in a stand-off. Tensions escalated and the blokes switched to French: “Police! Police!”

Were they or weren’t they?
On one hand, the car was unmarked and the dudes weren’t wearing uniforms.
On the other hand, I hadn’t (yet) run into serious trouble in Morocco.

They continued yelling and tried to open my door.  I took a deep breath and, without having very many options, took a chance and opened my window a crack.  With broken language, everyone talking at once, and a range of hand gestures I tried to make it clear that I would leave this area in order to talk to them more; I would follow them to a more populated spot.

They stared while I wiggled out of my sleeping bag, readying myself to drive. More chaos and general confusion but eventually the men got back inside their own vehicle and ten minutes later we all arrived in front of a cement building.  It was pitch black but at least there were other people milling about.  I opened my door immediately, wanting to stand and take some initiative.

Two men approached me.   They tried to speak English and I tried to comprehend.  One of the guys took out a notebook.  I shook my head no to what I thought he was asking, “I had not been drinking” and I did not have alcohol.  I started to relax as it seemed that these men really were police officers.

What was I doing on the side of the road?
Words and glances were exchanged between the men.
At their request, I grabbed my passport and followed them inside.  The others in the group joined and the 6 of us tried to communicate, asking and answering what seemed to be the same questions over and over again.
I responded with the Arabic word for yes.
We spoke in 3 different broken languages as the men transitioned from attacking me to becoming (oddly) paternal.  It seemed that they were worried.

They offered me some of their tagine; cous cous and yogurt (a traditional dish served on Fridays).  I accepted to show trust.

We ‘chatted’ for a couple of hours while I tried to stifle my yawns.  It was past my bed time but the police wanted to practice their English and the officers insisted I spend the night on a make-shift bed in their hallway.
“But what?  Why?”, I asked.

I tried to tell them that the only people who had actually given me any trouble were, in fact, them.
“Coyotes”, they responded.
“Huh?”  I was bewildered.  “My windows were up and my doors were locked. Could coyotes could have gotten inside?”
The police shook their heads in confusion.
Back and forth we went until I resigned and agreed to lay down. In the morning, after a terrible night’s sleep in the main quarters of a rural Moroccan police station, we all ate breakfast together and I politely excused myself to continue my journey solo.


Does this look like a police station??


Not friendly to a diet: Bread, honey, olive, and argon oil.


Looks scarier than it was. This was a hitchhiker who definitely needed a ride.


A hitchhiker up close. Can you smell our BO from there?

Two different times, in two different towns, I was relaxing at ‘home’ during daylight hours when a man noticed that I was alone in my vehicle and circled back around.  Both times, as the man approached, I maintained eye contact and sounded the alarm by pressing relentlessly on the horn. It took a physical shove (from me) but thankfully both bad men left without too much of a scuffle.

And then, unfortunately, once I reached south Morocco things got even lonelier.  There was a scam involving fake, broken down cars whose owners robbed do-gooders, and which meant that I could no longer stop to help people on the side of the road which was terrible because: 1) Helping people felt nice, 2) it was a great way to make friends, and 3) it was rotten to be in full-time defense mode.

I was in poor spirits. Ducks threw bread at me and dogs offered me their bones.


At least the scenery was still beautiful.  This gorgeous city was called Ait Baha.


A gentleman: This young man publicly defended my word when a crippled old guy touched me inappropriately (by Moroccan standards).


So. Much. Pain.
I needed to leave the comfort of my car to brave the winds throughout the day and throughout the night.  I got a nosebleed from stress and I wasn’t getting any better.  It was obvious (to me) what I had — a UTI — and I desperately needed to get treated.

I googled directions to a Western-style hospital near Marrakesh, a notoriously chaotic city with a “must-see” reputation that I had been wanting to visit.   When I got to the clinic I explained what had happened.  I’m not sure if the nurses couldn’t understand me (likely) or if they were simply embarrassed.  Premarital sex is taboo in this Muslim country and I tried to explain “it’s not that, I’m merely a grunge muffin. Please help!”  They shook their heads and I was sent to 3 different hospitals without receiving treatment.  I was miserable and suffering.  Every hour dragged on and I made the tough decision to avoid any more “must-see” spots like the medina of Marrakesh, where there would undoubtedly be attention and harassment.  I felt broken.  Instead, I choose to drive myself towards Casablanca, my impending trans-Atlantic trip, doctors who spoke English, and the miracle of cranberries.


My final night was pathetic, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.  Oh a whim I pulled my ‘home’ into a boutique hotel called Las Kasbah des Sables, jonesing for a hot meal and a toilet.  The staff was friendly and there was silverware on the table!  I met the owner, socialized, and used the bathroom every couple of minutes.  I planned on requesting to sleep in their rocky parking lot when Abdou Abdel offered to take me on a tour of his hotel.  It was gorgeous.  I ooohed and ahhed and when Abdou offered to comp me his favourite room tears welled up in my eyes.  I gratefully accepted and slept for a few blissful hours before I headed to the airport.  A private shower, bath, hot water, air conditioner, and a bed with blankets: If you’re reading this Abdou Abdel, thank you again!



For now, my final meal in Morocco.  Inchallah.

As I sat on (what seemed to be) an extra long flight to Pennsylvania, the greatest country on earth, I was grateful to be with American Airlines because, well, America. And within 12 hours of touching down in Pittsburgh, PA my UTI was treated and I felt worlds better.  What a relief!  I promised myself I wasn’t going to take sleeping soundly for granted ever again.

I shared containers of olives that had made it through customs and soft desert sand that I had piled into my backpack with friends.  I rested comfortably in my own bed — at least for a short while.  Because for me, adventure is part of my professional life and months before I landed I had already booked my upcoming trip.  A quick two days later my next flight was taking off.

Central America, here we come!


5 Responses to “Morwrongco (Unpleasantries)”

  1. Deekers August 19, 2016 at 5:03 pm #

    Speechless in Western New York.

  2. Eli Barrett August 26, 2016 at 12:05 am #

    Hillarious. Are you still in Maroc? How did I not know about this blog before now? If you’re in the mood for a slightly more prosaic adventure, visit us in Anacortes.
    Eli (Paris)

  3. Jerry and Kathy Pitts August 26, 2016 at 1:07 am #

    Sammi you are so fortunate that you really haven’t had any real bad experience ! Maybe the training we got in PC Jamaica helped ! What are you going to do with all this traveling experience you are storing up ? Looking forward to your next adventure ! Keep safe Keep having fun ! You are always on my mind !

  4. Paul Garcia September 21, 2016 at 1:04 am #

    Sami, as the previous person mentioned you were very lucky… aside from the fact you’re a single woman travelling alone, human trafficking is at an all time high in that area. The travelling gods were with you!

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