We ate a light Tandoori lunch and drank Pepsi. We were starting to get nervous about having traveled to this country alone. The women hissed at us from underneath their chadors and the men simply ignored us. We stood out, a group of young female foreigners, despite wearing the most modest clothing we owned--long-sleeved shirts, baggy pants or long skirts, socks. We tried to be respectful despite the sickening heat, but the fact that we were traveling alone was seen as a threat by some of the locals.
Still, we explored the Bazaar at Djemaa el Fna and were underwhelmed by the snake charmers. The famed dentists were nowhere to be found. Apparently the Square only came alive at night, but we were feeling vulnerable and there was no way we were going there after dark, fire eaters be dammed. Instead, we went into the souk and did some shopping.
It was much friendlier at the marketplace, where every shopkeeper was eager to invite us in for mint tea – and to by the way take a look at his beautiful handmade shawls/pewter jewelry/rugs. My friend listened to a rug salesman tell her the story of how this rug was made by his mother and that one by his wife. I wandered off while sipping my mint tea and peeked underneath a couple of rugs:
‘MADE IN INDIA’
‘FABRIQUE EN CHINE’
Bored and not wanting to spoil her fun, I went to the spice stand and watched the shopkeeper pop in and out of a patchwork of colors like a mole, rushing to mix flavors as the shoppers barked their orders.
I didn’t buy anything. But still, the Moroccans kept offering tea. Maybe it was all the sugar, but Amy and I decided to get some henna tattoos instead of buying worthless knicknacks. We found a woman in a black chador working on another tourist. She had a little girl with her. In broken French we asked the girl if her mother could work on us and the woman in the chador nodded -- maybe smiling, maybe not. When it was my turn she quickly mixed the henna paste and set to work on my upper arm, drawing with a plastic syringe. I didn’t know what I wanted or how to ask for it, but she got to work anyways and I was soon decorated with an intricate lotus flower.
I smiled and thanked her. It was beautiful, even if it was not authentic.
She worked on my friend Amy in silence, and didn't speak until she was done. We waved goodbye after we paid the girl, but the woman kept going on and on in French. I couldn’t understand what she wanted, so I figured she wanted more money. I pulled out a few dollars.
She refused and grew more agitated, black fabric flapping everywhere.
We gestured for her to follow us as we looked for our Belgian friend Sylvie. We finally found her looking at some rings. The woman in the chador spoke to her, and seemed to calm down when she realized Sylvie spoke French.
“She wants to invite us to meet her family.”
Silence. Somebody finally said OK.
“We’re to meet her here at 7:00 am tomorrow.”