P’tit Habibi’s manager, Abdelouaffi, warned us that if we looked lost in the street, we would be accosted by young people offering to guide us, then refusing our payment as offensively low and demanding more. To help us out, he walked us partway to the souks and pointed out landmarks to look out for, and gave us some small change so we had something to give to guides if we needed them (as is probably already clear, I’ve never met a more thoughtful hotel manager than Abdelouaffi).
We haven’t been accosted by teenage guides yet, despite my repeated inspections of our large and difficult-to-fold map (though I’m sure it will happen before too long). On the contrary, when we’ve approached people for directions they have been solicitous, conscientious (two people looked blank, confessed they didn’t know, and then consulted someone more knowledgeable) but they were always partial – they seemed to end with an unspoken ‘and when you’ve got that far, as someone what you should do next’. Or perhaps it’s just that in a city with no right angles, where most roads have no names and different maps disagree about the names of those that do, the phrase ‘follow this road until it ends and then turn right’ is open to multiple interpretations.
At one point, I asked a young man in a café for directions – he in turn asked an older man, then came outside to show me where to go. He took me around the corner, where we discovered that a woman had been knocked off her moped by a taxi. The taxi driver and the woman exchanged strong words in Arabic (even as she remained pinned down by her bike) and another man helped her up and gave her a lift on his bike. Everyone else either honked (if they were in cars) or swerved around (if they were on mopeds) or, as in the case of our guide, took no apparent notice and continued giving directions, making sure we understood what he was telling us.