This post seemed like the thing to do after I woke up at 2:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep.
Travel advice for navigating medinas* is simple. If you’re headed to your lodging for the first time, pay a boy to guide you and carry your luggage, or call the place to see if they’ll send someone to lead you in. If you enter a medina without a guide, expect to get lost. Pay a boy to guide you to your destination or out of the medina.
( *A medina quarter is a distinct city section found in many North African cities. The medina is typically walled, with many narrow and maze-like streets. The word “medina” itself simply means “city” or “town” in modern Arabic. Medina quarters often contain historical fountains, palaces, and mosques. )
Some say GPS or explicit turn-by-turn instructions negate the need for hiring a guide. Maybe. I picked a riad (traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard, now converted into lodging) in the Essaouira medina, then compared maps and GPS.
The website for the Les Matins Blues (the blue mornings) riad has their address (22 rue Draa) but no map. Already I knew there was no definitive answer. Yet, I’ve placed blue dots on the maps to show where I think the riad is. This was going to be interesting – or put me to sleep.
I repeated the same two steps with Google maps. Given the address, gMaps found the riad, on an unnamed street, one that other maps name with variations of rue L’Attarine. Not surprisingly, gMaps returns the same map for a search on the riad’s name (TripAdvisor and Hostelworld use gMaps with the same results)
I’m staying at Les Matins Bleus so am tempted to find it on my own. But I’d rather pay a boy to carry my backpack and he’d probably speak up the first time I got off route, so why bother.
Moroccan medinas come in 4 varieties: 1) So small that most who enter don’t need a guide for exit, 2) Small enough that good information plus a good sense of direction means you might find your destination or way out, 3) Do not enter without money for a guide. Extra food and water is advised, 4) The Fes medina – the world’s largest car-free urban area. Maps of the Fes medina remind me of the maps of the age of European discovery because both have empty areas where no one who entered has yet returned with reliable information (see scale above the red marker):