Robbed in Morrocco

The holiday can be broken down into 2 chapters – before the mugging and after the mugging. As you will have read about in my previous blog, we had had a good day and were walking back to the hotel along a well-lit well-populated road just after 11pm.

minaret

We were on the edge of the pavement, just about to cross a road directly behind our hotel, when a motorbike came past with two men on it. The man on the back ripped my handbag off me. I was wearing it diagonally across my body. It was done in a very slick manner so I didn’t even realise what was happening at first – I thought they had caught my cardigan so I was a bit confused and more concerned with being dragged into the road by my cardigan. It was only moments later that I saw my handbag strap on their motorbike and I screamed “they took my handbag!!”. My BF and I immediately ran after them shouting “Call the Police!!”. The locals just watched us with curiosity and no-one helped us. At first the motorbike was going slowly and i thought we’d catch them, but the further they went, the faster they got, and there was no way we could catch up with them. Not that I knew what we’d do if we did catch them!

We stood there in shock for a few minutes, talking to a few locals who were concerned but helpless to do anything. We then walked to the Police station, me in tears and shock. It was while we were waiting in a queue at the Police station that I realised that our hotel room key was in the handbag, so we explained this and rushed back to the hotel. The last thing I wanted was for the men to have got to our room and had a chance to take our remaining stuff!

I reported it to the night staff at the hotel who thought my idea about the robbers coming to the hotel was ludicrous. Eventually he said he would change the room key swipe card (I don’t care if it’s just to humour me – it doesn’t cost the hotel anything, so just do it, if it makes your guests feel better!)

We took an hour to sit down so I could calm down and take stock before heading back to the Police Station. Luckily my BF and I always take precautions, so we had put most of our credit cards, passport, driving licence, mobile phone etc in the hotel safe. Thank God for that, or it would have been much worse and harder to sort out. But the handbag still had cash, my camera, and my wallet in it. But more than the stuff lost, it was an assault to me, my personal space, and my sense of safety. I know that many people go through much worse – people are tortured, raped, and murdered every day around the world, so I’m not trying to  overstate my experiences. But it did affect me and upset me in a way I never would have expected.

main-square

Our experience of the Police was mixed, but overall not the best. We spoke to 5 different sets of Police at different times, and some were nice and got me to sit down and take a breath, as I was in a state. However, others had no trace of emotional support or care – they were mainly concerned with the practicalities of the value of the bag and its contents; was my passport in it? and how much cash was in it? and how much was my camera worth? I understand that this is necessary and part of their job, but it felt like monetary value was all that was at stake, and no-one said anything like “oh my goodness, that is awful, I’m sorry that happened to you”. The next thing was the practicalities of reporting it. I  was asked to bring my passport to the police station. It was now after midnight, and after this, regardless of time of day, there was NO WAY I was taking my passport out of the hotel. Not having my passport in my handbag was my one saving grace – otherwise i would have spent the rest of the week at the embassy getting travel documents. The police said “it is safe”, but I was like “How can you say it is safe? I’ve literally just been robbed!”. They didn’t seem to have any understanding of how I might be feeling.

Then there was the language barrier – some Police spoke English, but others did not, so I had to try and explain in French. It was almost 1am now and I was still distressed, and my basic French was not really up to it. We returned the next day to do the official “declaration”, which we managed as the manager spoke some English, so he was able to translate many of the details to the police officer, who wrote up an account of what had happened, in French. I had to sign the declaration in French, which wasn’t too bad as I could just about read most of it. However I also had to sign 4 copies of a long document in Arabic, which I had NO IDEA what I was signing (possibly an Arabic translation of the French document?). It was scary as I was always taught to read and understand what you sign, especially in a Police station! I’m glad I wasn’t a defendant in this position!

We reported it to the day staff in the hotel, our holiday company, and some tour guide lady in the hotel, and they all finally gave me what I wanted – some compassion. They all handled it really well and seemed genuinely shocked and sorry that it had happened, and asked if i was OK. Just having someone acknowledge it made me feel better.

The whole thing did affect my feeling of safety. Just the previous day I was quite happy to leave the hotel and stroll up to the main square, and had enjoyed trying some street food. After this, I was freaked out. I put all our stuff in the safe, and only went out to re-trace the route the motorbike went to look my my bag, and then revisit the Police station to complete the declaration. I know it was just bad luck – you can get mugged anywhere, and I saw lots of other people wearing their bags diagonally across their body like i did, so it could have been any one of us – it was just bad luck that i was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it did shake me up.

My BF felt that it would be good to book a day trip to the Atlas Mountains for a change of scene, and despite my misgivings I agreed – I didn’t want to ruin the holiday for him, and after all, I’d be safe enough on a tourist bus, right? We booked the day-trip for the next day and then spent the rest of the day in our hotel in the swimming pool trying to have a good time and turn the holiday around. I was glad we had booked a lovely hotel with beautiful gardens.

pomegranate-tree

But alas that night I felt freezing cold and shivery, despite the heat. I went to bed wearing a dressing gown and socks for extra warmth, and it comes as no surprise that I woke up in the middle of the night with…. sickness and diarrhea!! Lovely. So I spent the rest of the holiday in bed feeling terrible. There’s nothing like being ill somewhere other than home. You just want to be at home in your own bed. I’m not sure what was wrong with me – possibly food-poisoning, possibly norovirus, but i think most likely heat-stroke. In my determination to look for the handbag etc, i think I neglected to drink as much water as i should have done, and i lost sight of sun-precautions a little.

I was a bit concerned that they wouldn’t let me fly at the end of the week, but I was determined not to stay in Morocco – after the week I’d had, I would have swum home, I was so desperate to get out of there! With Immodium and nil-by-mouth, I felt a bit better so I managed to fly home.

It was just another reminder for me that you can’t predict life. I spent much of the time in the narrow souks on-guard, holding my handbag close. That night we found ourselves in a narrow souk where the stalls were closed, in the dark and I said to my BF “they have knife-point robberies here – lets get out of here!” – and we left, but we were fine. But on the well-lit main street where I felt perfectly safe, THAT’s where I get mugged! Typical!

Plus, I am so scared of flying and my BF always says “statistically flying is very safe – you’re more at risk in the taxi to the airport”. In this case the flight was fine, but in the taxi home, we got in the middle of a Police car-chase. The “criminal” hurtled out of a side road onto the main road where we were driving – if we had been seconds further forward he probably would have hit us at speed. Luckily he didn’t, but as I peered out of my window I saw the Police speeding towards the side of our taxi! It was all Ok – they do have specialist driver training so were skilled enough, and cared enough, to avoid hitting members of the public! So we watched the helicopter above and avoided reinforcement police cars rushing to the scene, until we got home and shut the front door on the world. I can’t tell you how glad I was to get home safely!!!

PS: Sorry the photos are not great – obv I don’t have any of my photos as my camera was stolen. I managed to get a few snaps from my BF’s phone.

Next blog: Home

Previous blog: Marrakesh, Morocco

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