Normally I read travel advice on health and am sensible because I’m reluctant to miss out on anything, waylaid by some avoidable affliction.
Had I read it, I’d have known that sand-flies and ticks and fleas run riot in Morocco.
A Mighty Rash
When I left the Atlas Mountains, the rash that started after I was accosted by tiny black mites in a filthy eco-gite in the Mid-Atlas, became ferocious. It ran, not just across my cheeks and forehead, but over my eye-lids, across the bridge of my nose making it difficult to wear my glasses, around the edge of my ears and all over my hands, especially along the sides of my fingers.
I changed my travel plans because I seriously doubted if immigration in Spain, my next destination, would let me in. Instead I got the night bus from Marrakesh and, in the early morning, arrived just outside the Medina in Tangier. I avoided the Petite Socco, once notorious for pimps and hash, but now a tourist hub, and walked further into the Medina until I found a simple and clean guesthouse.
I spent the first couple of days sitting on my laptop increasingly terrified by the list of diseases I might have picked up: Leishmaniasis, Tick Bite Fever, Sand Fly Fever, Mediterranean Spotted Fever, West Nile virus, Filariasis, Typhus and Scabies.
The Ancient Landlubber...
I presented at every pharmacy I could find. They all asked me if I had had a fever, did I feel dizzy, and when I said no temperature, only supreme anxiety, they sold me creams and seemed remarkably unmoved by my plight - although keeping their distance I noted.
No matter what I applied, the rash persisted. I was embarrassed to speak to anyone, swathed my head in a scarf, keeping out of the sun which exacerbated the itch and mooched around shoulders hunched, so even the hawkers avoided me.
Some days I'd blink back tears, imagining I’d slope around Tangier evermore, never to return to the bosom of my family, some kind of Ancient Landlubber, accosting Aussie tourists with my tale. They’d shrink back in horror and I’d beg them to take messages to the other side.
Tangier; a City Not To Be Missed
I have a fairy godmother, celestial patroness or maybe my muse is some male diviner. Whoever. Lady Luck is on my side when I pack my bags and invoke the traveller in me to come to the fore.
For without that damned rash I’d never have visited Tangier, now on my short list as one of the most delightful cities in the world. In the end I didn’t want to leave.
Within days I had my favourite early morning cafe just outside the Medina. It was frequented exclusively by men, the elders. I might not have sat there had the owner not smiled and welcomed me. Each morning he'd see me coming across the square and my coffee would be ready at my table. I'd take my book but seldom opened it. It was a rare spot for me; a place where I just sat and, with a sense of supreme contentment, watched the world go by.