Dear Google Maps: you owe me a drink

Ok let’s review my Saturday afternoon in the medina (the old walled city). (The souks are the parts of the medina that are covered). I have decided that one of the things on my to do list is to conquer the medina in Marrakech. The only way to do that is to get in there and get dirty. Tomorrow I am going with a professional and I wanted to give it a go on my own to understand what I want to get out of my time with a local.

Now, my back has been really “off” the last few days, as it gets from time to time. My whole glute, back, IT band, hip problem. This time it’s had me out flat with the knowledge that Johnny Downhill (my “massage” guy) is not around to give me a good beating and straighten me out. I decided today I would go for a slow, long walk and try to work it out. (Judging by the shooting pains I have right now, maybe not a great idea. Oops).

So I looked at my Google maps app before I left. Located my entry point and had a general plan for the first stretch. Off I went. As soon as I entered the Bab (gate) of my choice my first words were, “well I wasn’t anticipating that” as the road went right and I wanted to go straight. Recalculating……

Things got off to a decent start. I made it to a point where I thought I was connecting some things so I moved to the side and looked casually at my map, trying not to give away my tourist status, and got my bearings. All is well. I took off again after mapping the next segment of my journey. No problem. I got this. What’s all the fuss about? And then it happened. Things started to get a little twisty. The map got a little confusing. The men started talking…”Lady, lady that way is closed.” (No it’s not), “Lady you are beautiful”, (Yeah, dude, I am. Thanks). “Lady the big square is this way.” “Lady where are you going?” After all this, and realizing that it is going to be unrelenting, I just pulled out my phone and openly started consulting my map, because really – I am an independent western woman. I got this. (There have been a number of conversations on that independent topic of late. I think it will be a whole post one day).

I got to a point where there were a number of options. A fork in the road is not right. It was more like an octopus laying flat out in the sun. And this is where Google maps started to really piss me off. You see, unless you rub it in just the right way, the compass is just useless. So here is me in the medina, looking like a foreigner, with Google maps open in my hand, a dumb look on my face, alone, and trying to place the movement of the sun. Seriously. AND when you are in a tight area, the little dot that shows your current location takes awhile to move on your screen. It gives you NO indication of the direction you want. It just sits there like a blue lump of coal. Lifeless. This is a GIANT issue for the single woman in the medina of Marrakech where the entire culture is to look, observe, remember. “That tall blonde girl went down this alley 2 minutes ago (and was horribly betrayed by the blue dot) and now she is coming back towards me. She MUST have believed me when I said that way is closed and the big square is this way.” Honestly. Too many times to count I had to go by the same men, all telling me where to go, correcting my direction, telling me they are GOOD friends and nice people. JESUS. Can’t you see I am an independent western woman? If I wanted to go to the square I would get myself to the God damned square.

There was one point where I had gotten to where I wanted to go and was ready to turn back and head home. I knew I was getting tired and I knew I needed to bring this trip to an end pretty soon. Not a lot of room for getting lost and wandering for hours. I needed to lie down. Soon. So there I was, down one alley, and back. Down another way, and back. Down there again. Nope. Turn it around. Ok ignore the men that are pointing and laughing. Ignore the tourists you keep crossing paths with. (They are all French and absolutely no help).

Finally I got back on track and started getting a good response from the blue dot. I was heading AWAY from the big square and going down residential streets, not tourist areas, and I was in Berber land. Distinctly. No tourists. Everyone thought I was lost. No one would have believed I was heading HOME.

And then it happened.

I was walking into the sun. I have learned that there is a time of day – between about 3 and 4 pm, where the sun is a total bitch. It is bright and low and it gets in your eyes and there is absolutely no way to see anything if you are walking into it. So I mistakenly put on my sunglasses. This I quickly learned was a mistake because now I could see even less. In the few seconds it took for me to figure out that I had indeed made a mistake; the incident. I could see the outline of a man walking seemingly towards me. Like – RIGHT towards me. This is unusual. As much as the men are annoying, they are entirely respectful. They do not touch, they generally do not follow. They give you space. So I didn’t believe this figure that I was completely blind to, walking right at me, wobbling, and shouting like a crazy homeless, dirty, dirty drunken (?) crazy (did I say that), man. He came right at me, clearly yelling at me, in Berber. He leaned right in and OH MY GOD – he kissed me, right where your name tag goes. Right on that left breast field between actual breast and shoulder. “AWWWWWWWWWW COME ONE” I yelled. Gross. I could literally have punched him in the head I was so mad. But I was also busy moving forward, taking my sunglasses off, watching my step, dodging donkeys and trying not trip. MAN. That was really unnecessary.

I finally found my opening in the wall and made my way home. I really only live about 5 minutes from that point so it was a quick trip with a stop at my local grocer.

I did manage to buy some olives and 2 preserved lemons for tonights dinner. It cost me 7 dh with 1 dh for the boy who served me. He was about 11 and his dad was sitting behind him feeding him words in French. I pointed at the olives I wanted and he put some in a bag. Then I said “more”, and made some hand motions. (My brain was tapped at this point, all I could think was Spanish). His dad prompted him so he put in some more. I said “safid” (done). Then he pointed at the lemons and I said “deux”. His father asked him how many that was and he counted on his fingers. “Seven” he said and we both laughed. “No no just two.” I gave him 1 dh for his “Bon Francais”. He was thrilled.

Now let’s review some of this trip in photos.

Do you think this white ass 100% Anglo Saxon face will ever be able to blend in?

To this place???? Blend in? Really? No. Not even in a Jelaba. It’s the short hair. I think.

Here is an example of my issue with Google maps. Note the blue dots’ location. I was standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE MUSEUM! It looks so far away to me.


And again with this deeply flawed Google product.

As I stood staring at this entrance to Riad Laila. Feeling OH SO BETRAYED.

After this, I had no choice but to have faith and trust as I walked into these empty streets and apparent dead ends.

  I did find my way out. On the other side of this little adventure I came out to an open square and actually said “I think I recognize that donkey”. Clearly, I was delirious at that point.


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