Yesterday was a long day. A car swiped my bicycle mirror on the highway, my phone was stolen (but later replaced), i had no appetite and couldn’t eat, vomited during the night, had awful stomach cramps, cycled 40 kilometers or so in the wrong direction…
Even with all the downfalls, it turned out to be a good day. Cycling in the wrong direction got us off the national highway and into farm country. The highway had no shoulder and drivers don’t have the same respect for cyclists here in Morocco. The dirt roads were suited for cycling and the people were all very friendly.
The sun was setting and we had no idea how far we were from Moulay Bousslam, so we decided to ask some locals for a place to sleep.
I saw an older woman sitting in her doorway and made the universal sleeping sign. She had a huge smile on her face and brought us to her family’s home. No one spoke a lick of Spanish or English, but we managed to communicate okay.
The whole family gathered around to welcome us and make us feel comfortable. One of the young girls painted henna all over my arms and hands- it was really beautiful! I have always seen women with it, but was waiting for the right opportunity to have it done on me.
After the henna we gathered around on the floor to eat together. The grandma prepared a noodle dish, much like watery mac & cheese. Our stomachs were cramping and we hadn’t had an appetite all day, but we managed to get a little bit down. The family didn’t seem to understand why, but they would soon see how bad my stomach was hurting.
I was ready to sleep as soon as we finished eating, so I went to gather my belongings. My phone was gone. I am known for losing things, so I didn’t want to make any accusations before I knew for sure that it was missing. I began thinking of my pictures, all the writing I have done, contact information, and all the other lost information. The iphone was replaceable, but the data from
the past year was not.
I didn’t have any hope and wasn’t comfortable stirring things up before sleeping in a stranger’s home. That didn’t stop Kyle though, he was on a mission. He got the grandma’s attention and explained what was going on. We decided to just to go to sleep and see what the family would do.
We heard the family members yelling and the kids swearing to the father they didn’t have it. After about thirty minutes of commotion, my phone was returned to me. They blamed it on the young boy, but we will never know the truth.
I tossed and turned with severe cramping and nausea for what seemed like hours. I was sweating and couldn’t come to a comfortable temperature. Without much warning, I had to vomit. I jumped up off the floor and ran to the front door. Kyle and the grandma (who was sleeping in the same open area as us), heard me and came to help. I didn’t make it to the bathroom and felt awful. The grandma cleaned up like nothing had happened and we all laid back down.
My stomach got a good cleanse that night and the next morning. I don’t think there was anything left in me. It drained me of what energy I had left.
I was longing for a room for comforts and privacy, so we decided to cycle on the next afternoon. After resting up in Azilal we didn’t have much time to waste. Our flights to Turkey were just three weeks away.
The cycling was on the coast most of the day, so we didn’t have too much change in elevation. I was feeling the effects of food poisoning and needed to rest. We didn’t make it to a pension or hotel by dark, so we once again had to rely on the locals.
I asked a few men if there was a hotel in the area and they all gave me a little chuckle. None of them spoke English or Spanish, but one of the men invited us to stay in his home that night. I was thankful, but also hesitant to accept the offer. I couldn’t stand the thought of another Arabic woman forcing me to eat.
A European car pulled up before we even had the chance to deny the offer. I couldn’t have been happier to hear the words ‘hola amigos’! At least someone we could communicate with, and I couldn’t help but hope that he had an actual toilet in his home.
Just minutes later we entered the home of another Moroccan family. Our new friend Sean spoke such good Spanish because he had been living in Spain for the past seven years. He was on holiday to visit his mother and family.
We were given many cups of tea, an excellent dinner, and our own room to sleep in. I imagine we were much more comfortable than we would have been in any hotel. Sean and his mother were so sweet and caring. They have a ‘no problem’ kind of home and we were thankful to be experiencing a night with them.
It is common in Morocco for families to live all together in the same home. Sean’s two brothers and their wives & children share the home with his mother. The wives were very sweet to me. They showered me with attention and did more henna for me! This time I got my feet decorated.
We planned to leave the next moning, but we quickly learned that is not the customary thing to do here in Morocco. It is part of their customs and culture to stay for three days.
We walked down to the beach with Sean and his cousin. We met many people on the walk through the fields, because Sean’s family owns the whole area. The workers were all very sweet to us. We saw a couple guys working on a well, so we decided to check it out. One man was about 50 feet down, hammering away. The two men had been digging the well for two weeks and said they have about two more weeks to go. Kyle grabbed his camera and accepted the offer to be lowered down into the well. He even hammered one piece of rock for the guys. :).
Kyle and I made an effort to leave again when we returned to the family home. I had my bag packed and threw it on my back. Sean’s mother came in and gave me a push back toward the bed. With body language, she let me know I would not be leaving that day. This was truly one of the most bizarre experiences of my travels. After one more shove, I accepted we really weren’t going anywhere.
We headed up to another beach town w Sean and his brother. I realized his mom sent us with her two single boys, and was trying to set me up with one of them. It was quite entertaining.
We returned to the home that night around ten for a nice family dinner. I’m not sure how it is possible, but I manage to understand some of what the family said between themselves. Maybe the Moroccan Arabic has a Spanish influence?
We were taken aback when Sean asked us where America was located. ‘Next to Saudi Arabia, right?’ Wow. There is a first for everything. I was so surprised, because he had been working in Europe for seven years- it isn’t like he spent his whole life in this small village.
Kyle and I put on an hour long fire show that night. The family had never seen anything like it, and we all had a great time. It was two am before we knew it, so we decided to call it a night. The adrenaline rush of the fire dancing keeps me awake for hours sometimes!
The family allowed us to leave the following morning. Not until after a nice breakfast though! We enjoyed our last mint tea with the family and thanked them for treating us so well. We left feeling much stronger than we had when we arrived, and created more memories & stories to tell.