My Money Belt Saved My Life
This is the most important purchase to ensure your safety abroad.
An ugly, sweaty, beige pouch residing under my shirt for the majority of four months unknowingly saved my life one night in Marrakech, Morocco. Yes, you read that correctly, an undergarment money belt is to be credited for my life and safety.
After a night out with friends in Marrakech, my friend and I decided to return back to our riad before the rest of our group was ready to leave. We hailed a taxi and returned to the outskirts of the medina, which lies in the heart of Marrakech and is home to dozens of riads, shops and food stands. As our taxi arrived to the curb, I saw a group of at least 30 men standing near the entrance to the medina. They seemed occupied; most were playing hacky-sack or engaged in conversation. None of them seemed to be looking for trouble; none of them seemed to be looking for someone like me.
As I shut the taxi door, their games stopped. Their relaxed dialect instantly turned sharp and angry. I could see the atmosphere turn red as I watched the men yell at each other while pointing at us. I remember the feeling of my heart beating in my brain. I knew what was about to happen.
We tried to make our approach to the entrance as quickly as possible; we kept our heads down and our feet moving. A group of five men approached us, cornering us against a wall. I remember a man’s face about three inches from mine, screaming in what sounded like French. I was frozen, yet trembling; the only thing I could make myself do was hand over my purse. The men immediately began rummaging through it, snatching whatever Moroccan Dirham was left in my wallet. They threw my purse back at me, and we were free.
As we navigated through the dark, narrow passages of the medina, I couldn’t help but clutch my stomach. My money belt containing my passport, phone, and both my credit and debit card was safely secure under my clothing. A wave of relief showered me as I realized that my identity, along with my physical body, was unharmed. Had those items with my name and personal information been in my purse, my safety and identity would have been stolen. I would be in stranded in Morocco without any money, without communication, and without a passport to return home.
I don’t want to think about what could have happened to me if those men had found my personal items, but luckily I don’t have to thanks to that ugly, sweaty beige pouch that saved me that night. I should probably thank my father too, who forced me to pack the money belt, emailed me once a week reminding me to wear the money belt, and will be finding out about this event for the first time if he reads this story (sorry Dad).
As for any lessons learned from this experience, I suggest the following:
Safety in numbers. The bigger the group, the better—no matter how experienced of a traveler you are.
Purchase a money belt. You can find them on Amazon, or at Walmart, REI, and Target.
Trust your gut. If you feel trouble ahead, don’t walk towards it quickly with your head down; that doesn’t make trouble go away, it just makes trouble take your purse.