In The Moment: Sick in Morocco
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.
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!