13 Boulevard Al Mouzdalifa
Apartment 13, 3rd Floor
Marrakech, 40 000.
It is opposite Patisserie Le Votre – if you Google this/Facebook this you will find a map with the exact location.”
The day of the conference comes and I head out with an umbrella because of course it was the one rainy day Marrakech has seen in 4 months. I had great luck finding the Patisserie Le Votre on my Google Maps app so that was a good start.
I hailed a taxi and the cabbie was fascinated by my new fangled technology when I showed him “the dot” on the Google Map app. I got in the front seat, there was a woman in the back seat already. Off we go. He’s looking at my phone because it moves you know, the blue dot, towards the destination. He was entranced. We drove along, he pointed and said some words in English and I nodded like I had invented the damn thing. I eventually heard the woman in the back speak up. I don’t know a ton of Darija but I know enough, and I know about situational hand gestures, voice undulations and common sense to know that the women had literally taken a back seat to the white girl with the shiny toy. I was embarrassed by this but helpless to do anything so I said nothing (but I did thank her directly when I got out for coming along on my ride).
At the destination, I had anticipated it to be on the outskirts of town, so I knew it would be less dense. I knew generally where we were and I knew getting a taxi home would mean a good walk to another major street because I was kind of in the boonies.
I spot the Patisserie, which is permanently closed so I’m really hoping they offer coffee when I arrive at the meeting.
I look across the street. There are three tall buildings. One is clearly a residence. One is a school. One has commercial space. So that’s the one. I approach. There is a pack of about 9 Moroccans students gathered in the doorway. No one helps. I look at the signs. Nothing. Arset Sinko is the ….name of the building maybe? I have to assume. I stand back and look up at several signs. Nothing. I go inside. No directory. I go to the third floor. There is no apt 13. Of course. Some of the doors are actually marked, in the 3 and 5’s, not 13. I go back downstairs. I enquire with someone who looks promising. They point to the Patisserie across the street. Got that, yup. They point to the elevator. Yup got that too. Then they tell me that I can go to school with them and learn English. Aw, thanks. One man took me around the corner on the first floor to a hair salon. Nope, not today but thanks.
I leave. There is literally no other viable option in sight. Nothing to even investigate. I walk one way to check.Parking and an empty field. Turn around walk up the street the next way. Nope. Nothing. I’m done.
I spot a major street quite a way up that I know to be the main street back towards Majorelle were I can get a taxi. So I start walking. Texting the conference people all the while. With no reply.
Then, across the street about a block up I spy a number on a building – 20. Well then, where is 13? I stop and look around. I spot no other numbers. BUT – there is a building that has SINKO written on it, with a large entry into a courtyard. Could it be? I approach.
There is a Guardian behind a desk and three Moroccan women in the lobby. In a combination of French, Darija, English and hope we discuss my quandry. Yes this is in fact Sinko. Spelled Cinko but let’s not split hairs. What is this 13? A long discussion ensues with pointing, head scratching and staring at me, head to toe (that’s a thing here). Finally the Guardian walks away with a shoulder shrug and a lady says “follow me”.
We walk in to a huge courtyard in what is CLEARLY a residential complex. She takes me into a building block entry marked “17”. It was quite a walk back into the heart of the complex. Uh, ok. She takes me to the bottom of the stairs and points up indicating that if I ascend to the 3rd floor I will surely find apartment 13 with a conference table and hot coffee. I am not so positive.
She disappears, leaving me quite alone in a place on earth I could never find again, no one knows where I am, there is not a single sign of life in sight. I go up one floor just in case. I find 5 doors. FIVE. Not one of them has a marking, a number, an X , nothing. I turn around and leave.
I later found out that no one showed up for this meeting. “WOW REALLY?” Because apparently it was hard to find. They were lovely and offer a quick refund with the addition of cab fare. I had a little adventure and some fresh air. No harm, no foul.
All the time I was searching though I was recalling past conferences in Canada. The giant hotels with sandwich boards every 10 feet, bug huge signs in large font with balloons attached, and polite Interns that encourage you along the way with guiding hand motions. And some idiot invariably can’t find the right room. So really – the chances of finding a place in this city, without a uniformed escort, GPS, solid command of 4 languages, a sniffer dog and photos for visual backup? Yah – good luck.