A stroke away from death in Tangier, Morocco

 

Day 1 (July 5th, 2016)

It’s July 5th, 2016 and I’m sitting here in Tangier, Morocco playing back through a myriad of troubling scenes and emotions which I experienced in an unfortunate event. Yesterday, as per custom, I decided to slip into a nice little outfit and head on out to the mall that’s right next door to the Hilton Garden Inn where I’m staying at to not only go souvenir shopping, but also, to see if I could find any new outfits which I could use to capture artistic shots in a country which I was so looking forward to trekking. After convincing myself that I shouldn’t be fearful, I took a step outside my door, whispered a quick little prayer, and didn’t look back. I walked out into the streets with confidence and strength, but little did I know it’d all be put to the test. As I walked into the mall, I immediately noticed several individuals stopping to watch. The minutes passed and more and more people looked at me like the phenomenon I believe I am. I thought, perhaps they’ve never seen someone as exotic and refined as myself. I swam through the crowds like a swan on a lake and continued to search to see what it is I could find in Morocco that I couldn’t find no where else. Who knew I’d be handed my answer so quickly.

Camara’s in hand, many individuals video taped as security guards made their way towards me to escort me out of the facility. Apparently, the commotion had gotten so out of hand, I had to leave. Crowds of people followed me towards the elevator watching every step I took. At one moment, a young male passed and spit in my face. I had NEVER experienced that in my life! I wiped away his bitterness and continued along the way. In the elevator, a woman from the crowd was able to sneak in and began to explain to me that in their religion, what I was doing was a sin. That I shouldn’t walk out like this. I immediately understood where she was coming from and being that I was a visitor in someone else’s home, I wanted to take it all off and just be “normal” while I got to safety. However, I talked to her and rationalized by explaining that 1.) I don’t know/speak Arabic, 2.) I’m from another country, and 3.) This was my first time in Morocco. Fearing for my life, I told them I was Mexican (which isn’t a lie.) I couldn’t jeopardize my life anymore by stating I was from America. Ironically enough, I was escorted out the back entrance and made my way three levels down the stairs as the security guards tried to take my phone away. I adamantly exclaimed, “NO!” and was forced to delete two of the videos I had captured. Finally when I got to the bottom, they cruelly left me in a precarious spot where I walked to where I was staying. Little did I know, the best was yet to come. 

As I walked around the corner heading towards my hotel room, a guy in a brown vehicle began yelling things at me which I did not understand. I, however, could sense they were nothing nice. I continued walking before being surprised by a voice coming directly from behind. I turned around and noticed the guy in the brown vehicle was now directly in front of me saying something about Islam. He raised his fisted hand and threw the first punch, then pushed me to the floor and kicked me like a soccer ball while yelling things I didn’t understand. A younger fellow, who I thought was coming to help me out, came and in turn threw punches and kicks on to a surrendering, helpless foreigner that lay on the floor aching in pain. My phone fell to the floor and the younger guy took it refusing to give it back. At this point, many individuals had come out to see what was going on. Even the wife of the guy from the brown car came out. I quickly looked at them all while I took my heels off and said, “I’m sorry.” I asked the guy with my phone to please give it back to me. At first, he planned to throw it against my face with force and strength, but eventually, someone convinced him to just give it to me, and he ended up tossing it on the floor. Heels in hand, I ran to my hotel room fearing I’d get scolded once more. Once there, I immediately assessed the damage and afterwards, lay in bed. With a couple of swollen/painful areas in my foot and a couple bruises through out my body, I decided to shower to rinse some of the pain away. 

I haven’t left my room since yesterday. I fear for my life. Although I’d seen reports on such things, I had NEVER encountered such hate and anger. Ironically enough, yesterday was July 4th, 2016, and in my country (USA), we celebrate Freedom and Justice. One thing I can state is that traveling the world has made me understand and embrace different cultures, but most importantly, it’s made me appreciate where I call home. I had traveled to Egypt before, also an arabic country, which I LOVED and which seemed to LOVE me; my androgynous attire and makeup seemed to intrigue everyone more than frustrate them. I assumed my experience here would be similar, but I was completely wrong. It was very naive of me to assume everything would be similar here. I’m sure Morocco is a gorgeous country, but at this point, leaving is what is mostly on my mind. 

What I’ve learned is I will NEVER apologize for being myself. One must forgive those that have ‘caused us pain and move on with life. It’s a tricky little cycle one can get caught up and after a little analyzation on what’s going on in the world, I feel this couldn’t be truer. Perhaps it’s a bit idealistic of me to want world peace and just wish that we could agree to disagree and all live in peaceful harmony, but until we learn to put our differences aside and begin to value one another for the wisdom, knowledge, and unique perspective we each collectively bring into the world, things will not change. It’s about being respectful towards one another. Different is ok; if you don’t like what you see, change the channel. As I’ve discovered, being a harmonious chord in a monotonic, one note world can sometimes get me in trouble. Alas, life goes on… I plan on leaving this experience in the past and moving on to heal my soul and body from this pain in hopes that better pastures await… Spain- I’m looking at you and hoping that I can make it out alive to get to explore a little bit more and hopefully, enjoy what remains of my vacation.

Day 2 (July 6th, 2016)

I’m currently still in Tangier, and haven’t left yet. I’m still scared of who/what may be out there. I’ve ordered room service in hopes of having little to no exposure to the outside world and after deciding that I needed to get out of this darkness of a cave I’ve transformed my room into, I mustered enough courage to go workout a bit in hopes of activating some feel good endorphins. Unfortunately, I forgot my key card in my room and couldn’t access the gym, so I reluctantly made my way downstairs to get another card. As soon as I arrived at the desk, I saw all the receptionists who welcomed me the day I arrived. They appeared unnaturally helpful; I pushed a smile through and managed to get a card to access the gym all while being polite and nice as it is my nature. Before leaving, the main girl in charge of the team asked to speak to me privately. My stomach sank. Now what?

She pulled me aside and apologized for what had happened yesterday and mentioned she had heard about it. She asked me if I was ok to which I nodded, “Yes.” She asked me what had happened, and I replied that I really didn’t want to recount the experience; I didn’t want to talk about it. I did mention that I HAD stopped by the desk prior to stepping outside to ask if I was going to get killed or arrested were I to go out dressed as I was to which a couple of girls replied, “No.” They were right, however, neither of them mentioned it would ‘cause an uproar for it was viewed as sinful by the Islamic followers. I mentioned to her that I did NOT want to go outside for I felt unsafe. She assured my she’d do everything within her power to make me feel comfortable. She, once again, apologized for what had happened the day before and stated that it was Ramadaan, and that people, in addition to being offended by the action, could have been “hangry” as they were limited to the amount of food they could eat. It made me giggle ‘cause I’ve been there, but usually not by choice. Whatever the case was, the damage was done. 

After working out, I showered and went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant to grab some food. While looking for a seat to take, I noticed armed military guys a few meters outside the hotel; they weren’t there before. I wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible, so I opted for a more hidden table. I sat and tried to enjoy my food; I couldn’t help but think, “What if someone tries poisoning me?” Fear was definitely present. Once I finished, I made my way to my room and worked on a couple of pending projects to not only be productive, but to occupy my time.

I had already booked everything for Morocco; I planned on going to Fez after Tangier, and from Fez, I’d go to Marrakech. That, however, has changed. From this point on, I am determined to turn this negativity around into a positive experience. I choose to not be in a country I just don’t feel safe at all traveling alone. I want to have a good experience. I want to have a good vacation, and this put a damper on what had been so great thus far. I don’t see this as the end, but the beginning of something new. Perhaps it’s time to explore Spain a little bit more. My one and only hope is that I can make it out alive- safe and sound. At this point, all I ask for you to send some love, light, and positivity as I definitely am in need of it. Adios Morocco; hello, Spain?

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