In The Moment: Sick in Morocco.

By Posted in - Africa & Featured Post & Travel Blog on December 9th, 2011 A woman laying in bed who has food poisoning
A woman laying in bed who has food poisoning

Beth sick in bed at the Riad Baraka in Chefchaouen, Morocco. Everyone now: 'Awwwww.'

So it happened. I finally got violently ill on the road. I knew it was only a matter of time and now the time has come.

I ate very carefully in Marrakech because we were there doing reviews with Low Cost Holidays and I didn’t want to get sick. I ate at places that seemed reputable and never used any utensils. I had read somewhere that you should just use your bread to eat your food with in Marrakech and so that’s what I did. Kind of wussy, I know, but I took every precaution I could. I even drank soda (which I think is a complete poison) because I didn’t want to use the glasses. I was on it.

I told myself when we went to Chefchaouen I would be more adventurous with my food.

But the reality is I have the nickname “Sensitivo” for a reason. My stomach is not as adventurous as my mind. My immune system is not the greatest either. Both of these things make for a bad combination when traveling and trying new foods.

We arrived in Chefchaouen about 3 days ago and I became adventurous with my food!

It started out in the most adventurous way possible. While walking through town on the first day I met a man at a ‘convenience store’. By convenience store I mean a 3′ deep hole carved into a wall just large enough for a person to stand in with a collection of small goods for sale like crackers, soda and the Oreo’s that had initially lured me in. Apparently there was also enough room for a tea pot and a tea cup.

As soon as I made it to the counter the man seemed to take a liking to me and flirted with me even though Randy was right there. He offered me some mint tea. I tried to refuse but he said it was Moroccan hospitality – who am I to turn down Moroccan hospitality?

I agreed to the tea and he pulled out his handy teapot (must have a hot plate in there somewhere) and a glass. I could see even while he was pouring the tea that the glass was seriously dirty. I saw ‘lip prints’ from other peoples lips on it. I also saw actual fingerprint stains all over it. I don’t know if it had ever been washed. This thing was seriously hairy. I immediately started wondering about how I was going to get out of this generous hospitality when he surprised me further.

He actually took a sip from the glass himself before handing it to me.


I stared at the glass while standing maybe 1 foot from this guy trying to figure out what to do. He insisted I drink it, Randy stared at me and as I thought to myself:

“This is why I got all those hepatitis shots.”

I found a slightly less stained spot on the glass and I drank it! I was horrified and quite proud of myself at the same time. I was definitely an adventurous traveling foodie now!

Hours went by and nothing – I never got sick or felt bad in anyway. Game on.

I was going to eat whatever vegetarian item came into my path. Salads, fresh fruits – all the things you normally avoid in a place like Morocco were all on my list now! Life was gonna be good in Chefchaouen and I was quite happy about it.

I ate avocado salad (amazing), coffee with some strange milk that creates a film on top (pretty tasty), fresh fruit salad (out of this world), olives (always good), a veggie sandwich made at a shop which I found out later was shut down for health reasons just a few months ago (still really freaking good) among other things.

I was feeling great – running around, taking photos, getting lost in the winding streets of the blue city. My next goal was to drink the water because I was told that the water in Chefchaouen is safe, natural spring water that comes right off the mountain. I was told that it’s a source of pride for many of the residents and I would have no problems at all with it.

Drinking tap water in Morocco? That’s like the holy grail for adventurous foodies!

I thought about it for a couple days and decided to go for it. Unfortunately fate stepped in.

On that very same day Randy and I decided to treat ourselves at one of the most well respected restaurants in town. It was hugely expensive compared to what we were eating previously – each meal cost about $10. To put this in perspective the sandwich I was talking about earlier with a drink and fries was only $2. We were celebrating the fact that we finally finished our Istanbul video, which we had been working on for weeks.

Rumor had it this restaurant actually made different Moroccan food – different spices, different flavors. I was excited because most food in Morocco (at least the vegetarian variety) all tastes the same and it was getting a little boring.

I imagined all the things I had read about Moroccan cuisine – raisins, cinnamon, figs, avocados, real chocolate deserts – yummmmm….

I was told the eggplant salad was very good. I had eggplant in Marrakech which was out of this world so I ordered it right away.

Bad idea.

By the time the meal came (veggies & couscous) I couldn’t eat it. I didn’t feel well at all and suddenly I felt really, really full. I couldn’t eat the desert either. Randy gobbled up his food and I asked them to package up my meal and we went back to our riad.

I felt off the entire evening. Then around 4 a.m. I woke up feeling horrible. Ran to the bathroom and proceeded to puke my brains out. Then came the intense stomach cramping, then the chills, then the severe joint pain. I couldn’t lie down because it made me throw up. I couldn’t sit up because it hurt my hips so bad. I was basically in tears because of the pain. I spent the next 24 hours rolling around in pain, covering myself in 500 blankets because I was shivering, groaning and running to the bathroom.

When I started throwing up again in the evening Randy started to get worried and said I needed to go to the hospital because he had never seen me so sick. There was no way I was going to the hospital unless I was dying.

I tried my best to mentally block out any other ideas about different diseases I might have contracted. Instead, I thought of all the travelers who had come before me and suffered this same fate. I told myself I would get through it. I forced myself to sleep praying that in the morning I would feel some relief.

Luckily I woke up feeling much better. My body is exhausted and feels like it has been through a war but my stomach pain has calmed down. Unfortunately, I can no longer stand the smell of Moroccan cooking and I lost two days out of the four we had in this beautiful blue city but at least I made it through my first major illness on the road! Phew.

Mica from KayPacha Travels has been tweeting with me and has advised me that charcoal tablets work wonders for stomach issues so I’m going to be sure to get some soon! The owners of the riad we are staying at, Riad Baraka, were very kind to me and even ran out to get me some special Moroccan tea which would help my stomach. I don’t think it actually did but I couldn’t drink enough to tell.

It reminded me of the time that I got ill in Italy with the flu and learned about a German brown sugar/purple onion concoction and an Israeli sage tea that would mere also guaranteed to make me better.

I love learning about different homemade medicines on the road but I discovered it really sucks to learn about them when you are ill. At that point you are stuck between a rock and a hard place – will this make me better or will this make me worse? It’s a crossroad you reach at some point when you travel and you have to make a choice.

I know there are a ton of you out there with on the road illness stories and I would love to hear them! I would also love to hear what type of homemade, local cure alls you’ve tried.

Where were you?

How sick did you get?

Did any local speciality work for you?

Please share in the comments below!

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(40) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Jan Ross -

    December 9, 2011 at 7:23 am

    The worst for me was when I accidentally drank some tap water in Punta Cana while brushing my teeth. The water bottle was right on the sink, I just forgot. As soon as I did it, I realized what I had done and was horrified. Luckily, the stomach problems did not hit until we got home but, omg! I thought I would die from the pain. Finally had to go to the doctor and some some antibiotics. Oh, I shudder at the memory!!

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      Oh I’ve done that before too! Such a pain when you realize it! @Jan Ross,

  • Bethany ~ twoOregonians -

    December 9, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Oh, dear! I’m so sorry to hear about your woes. No fun at all, especially after finally being in the land of dreamy figs and avocados and eggplants. I’ve not been sick on the road yet, but my hubby has come down with a few things during time in Mexico. Zero fun. Wishing you a return to health and adventure very soon. xx

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      Yeah Mexico has left me with more than a sunburn as well. I love it so much though I keep going back for more… hahaha πŸ™‚ @Bethany ~ twoOregonians,

  • Caroline -

    December 9, 2011 at 10:26 am

    My absolute worst experience was the day before I was to fly back to Canada from Montenegro. As a goodbye we had a great feast and ate a fabulous meal for the 1st time in my three months there. Sadly I got so ill I had to go to the hospital three times that night and somehow still managed to make my flight the next day! Being sick abroad is the WORST! Feel better Beth!

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      OMG Caroline – that is horrible! Three times to the hospital and had to fly the next day?? Oh man – I can’t imagine.. that must’ve been tough! @Caroline,

  • Ayngelina -

    December 9, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Oh no I hope you feel better soon. I have been so lucky that I didn’t get anything more than a head cold, not even a rumble in my stomach. I do eat yogurt every day which I swear by although I doubt it would have saved you.

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      I try to have a yogurt a day too but this was definitely something bad – straight up food poisoning – yick. You are seriously lucky I would love to have your stomach!

  • Jerri -

    December 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    So sorry that happened to you!

    I had some bad local oysters in South Africa once and the exact same thing happened to me. I felt kind of off and then right after I fell asleep I had to get up and run to the bathroom. I didn’t make it and threw up in the hostel hallway. Luckily, no one saw me.

    Hope you feel better soon! It takes a while to get back to normal. Drink lots of water!

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Oh that’s awful. I thought it was bad when people said they could hear me all night but puking in the hallway is worse! @Jerri,

  • Nomadic Samuel -

    December 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Beth, get well soon!!! I’ve had some rough & tumble days on the road myself.

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      Thanks Sam We need to talk soon – I hope you’re doing well. πŸ™‚ @Nomadic Samuel,

  • Raymond @ Man On The Lam -

    December 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I got a parasite in Guatemala and ended up losing 40 pounds (yes 40!) — I used to tell people I had a 6-pack, but it was 6 ribs you could see. The only thing that worked was an armada of antibiotics when I got back to Canada.

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Raymond that is truly awful! I lost 8 lbs and thought that was bad but 40lbs – holy moly! That’s a lot of feeling sick…@Raymond @ Man On The Lam,

  • Maggie -

    December 10, 2011 at 2:14 am

    “Drinking tap water in Morocco? That’s like the holy grail for adventurous foodies!” I just about died laughing over here – but then again, I live in Morocco. I have a story about an American government worker in Casablanca who looked to be in fear of our lives when he learned that my friends and I were drinking out of the tap (in Casa!) which gives us all the giggles – the tap water in Kesh or Chefchaouen really shouldn’t harm you. Tea out of a much used glass, though, might (for the record, they have a little butane tank with a burner on top back there). Also, eating food with your bread makes you look like a local – well done there. Thalla ixfnm! (Take care of yourself!) Enjoy the rest of your stay in Morocco : )

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm

      Just checked out your blog – awesome that you’re a PCV! I always wanted to join and right when I signed up I met Randy and ended up choosing my current path instead of that one. I always wondered what would’ve happened if I went the other way. Thanks for the info on the water and the bread too – at least I did something right! πŸ™‚

  • Caroline -

    December 10, 2011 at 5:12 am

    The day before my flight home from Montenegro (I was there for 3 months) I got extreme food poisoning which sent me three times to the hospital! And I hadn’t even packed yet! After a night of violent vomitting and er …. ya know, I somehow managed to make my flight home! Didn’t look much forward to my overnight stay at Heathrow though … ooof … feel better!!

  • Kristina -

    December 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I think I’m like you, I have a “delicate constitution” yet my brain refuses to accept it and is much more adventurous than my tummy. I eat on the street all the time and accept the risks. But drinking the water? No, no, no.
    I got sick like that in Nepal and a fellow traveler gave me charcoal tablets. They did help. I also got sick in Bali and was given ginger tea which really helps settle an upset stomach.

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Oh ginger tea is so good! I would love some right now. πŸ™‚ I am definitely going to pick up the charcoal tablets and see if they help next time around. I couldn’t even swallow any water this time around so I don’t know if I could’ve taken them but always good to have! πŸ™‚ @Kristina,

  • mina -

    December 10, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    i’m on my way to morocco in the next week! i get sick everywhere i go. this post made me nervous!!

    we blogged about getting sick in mexico city here: – we never did try those hcl tablets.

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:49 pm

      Have fun Mina! I’m sure you’ll be fine just stay don’t let your guard down at the ‘high class’ restaurants. hahaha πŸ™‚ @mina,

  • Roy Marvelous -

    December 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    Oh that sucks! I once got Norovirus on one of my previous ships so I drank a salt water flush to clear my system and didn’t eat for 24 hours. Did the trick.

  • Penny -

    December 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Oh my.. I also experienced taste shock when I first ate a seafood delicacy in the Philippines called Pantat. It’s smoked so some parts of the fish is still raw and I actually saw some blood when I started opening it. I got sick when I get to the hotel and I never eaten anything for 8hrs πŸ™

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Oh that sounds awful Penny! @Penny,

  • Dani | Globetrottergirls -

    December 12, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    So sorry to hear that you got sick – it sucks to lose a couple of days in a place when you’ve only got limited time there. Jess and I both got sick so many times during the last 20 months on the road, I don’t even know which story to tell .. Mexico, Guatemala, Laos, Nicaragua… there were quite a few incidents. Interestingly though we usually got sick after eating in a nice place where we felt safe to eat a salad, etc – but never after eating street food. And the worst sickness: when we were housesitting in Germany (!) this last spring! Luckily we had two bathrooms there, as it came out of both ends non-stop πŸ˜€

    • Bethany -

      December 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      Oh no! You’ve certainly had some bad ones! Germany too no less – that sucks! We’re going to try and housesit next year – we might have to pick your brain a bit on that. πŸ™‚ @Dani | Globetrottergirls,

  • Andrew Graeme Gould -

    December 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such a bad experience. My policy, if in doubt, is to not eat anything raw if it grows directly out of the ground, so no salads. For me, it’s just not worth the risk. Keep well…

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:57 am

      I know – mine too! I avoided everything fresh the entire time – including the night I got ill. everything was cooked but something still got me… hahah a:) @Andrew Graeme Gould,

  • Greg @ Volunteer in Africa -

    December 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    It could’ve been worse and I’m glad its nothing serious. We all get sick by digesting something new to our system πŸ™‚ I had my fair share of tummy revolution when I was in Africa lol

  • Cole @ Four Jandals -

    December 19, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Oh that sucks and I know the feeling! You were lucky though in my opinion… wait for it. I was sick for 2 weeks after we had been in Marrakech. I blame the damn snake charmers that literally threw the snake around my neck after I refused to talk to him. Added a link but feel free to delete πŸ™‚

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

      Oh I was right there with you. The illness ended up following me through Spain and in to France. Freaking horrible! The same thing happened to Randy with the snakes too and a monkey for me! hahaha πŸ™‚ @Cole @ Four Jandals,

  • Carol -

    December 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Oh my! That is the worst. I am so glad you got better relatively quickly.

    I think the worst sick and traveling experience I’ve ever had was having the flu in a group bunk room in a hostel. Eeeek. I felt so bad for the other people in the room and I knew no one so really couldn’t depend on anyone to take care of me or find me “medicines.” Glad I recovered… nothing worse than being incapacitated in a strange land and knowing no one!

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:53 am

      Oh I agree. Being in a hostel bunk is THE WORST. @Carol,

  • A Cook Not Mad -

    December 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

    We were in Tuscany when we got ill, from our own glutony. We went truffle hunting and wanted a nice picture of truffled pasta for the blog so we overdid it on the truffles (who knew you could do that?). Got up the next morning (we were planning to drive to Venice and spend a few nights there) took tons of immodium so I could make the road trip and spent the next two days visiting Venice in spurts of two hours at a time, running back to the hotel room to hang out in the bathroom. It was terrible but thank god pharmacies there are good at dispensing great meds.
    Hope you feel better soon.

    • Bethany -

      January 10, 2012 at 9:51 am

      oh my! I never knew you could OD on truffles! Glad you got better – that’s horrible about Venice though.@A Cook Not Mad,

  • Lauren -

    February 7, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Uuuuggghhh…I feel you. We were struck down with hideous food poisoning on an overnight sleeper train in India last month. I didn’t know it was possible to vomit so much, even when there’s nothing solid left in your body. I went with my mom’s favorite remedy for nausea and lived exclusively on 7-up for two days. Felt like such a warrior when it was all over. Glad you are through the worst of it and hope you can come back around to Moroccan food some day!

  • Alex -

    September 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Last winter I was on a very slow greyhound bus from NYC to Portland, Maine to see my favorite band on tour (one of three shows in a row). Halfway there I started coughing a bit, an hour later I had a sore throat, by the time I reached Portland I had the full on flu. Despite, I still stood in the front row and watched the entire show. I forced myself to skip the show the next night, but after two nights of rest at home, I went to see them one more time …. in a blizzard… taking dayquil and advil every few hours even during the show.

    And as for Morocco, I haven’t had any experiences as bad as yours, but I’ve been here for two weeks and literally everything I put into my stomach gives me a stomach ache. Although somehow salad has actually been the most mild for me. Wish I had a clue as to what specifically is bothering my stomach.