My shoulders, neck, and back decided to remind me that I am so much further away from my twenties than I'd like to think, and that carrying a load of goodies under a hot sun for a few hours was a bit adventurous. We were about to walk out the main Oudaïa gate when a woman called out to us and pointed down a path, indicating another exit. As we approached her, she sprung into action, grabbing my free hand and attacking it with pretty swirls of henna.
"Non, non, non, merci!" I tried to pull away but her grip was strong. She insisted that the henna was beautiful and she's really good at it, and as I kept pulling, she soon began the 'gift tactic'. Sometimes a gift really is a gift, but sometimes it's one of those 'well-now-I've-done-this-for-you-now-pay-me' kind of things, which I suspected this might be. The henna was cool on the back of my hand, and its scent brought me to my childhood somewhere between Dubai and Egypt— I almost gave in, but then Pedro saved me with a polite "Merci madame, un autre jour, inshallah".
These were the magic words that he had discovered would elicit an inshallah in response, and a backing off. She wiped the design off my hand with her thumb in a blink, and smiled with the expected inshallah. Next time, for sure— it just didn't seem to be practical at the moment with all the bags.
The path lead us to a lovely patio overlooking the Bouregreg, full of tourists and locals sipping mint tea under the cool shade of a trellis. Once we ordered our tea, a young man presented us with a platter of beautifully shaped cookies flavoured with almonds, orange blossom, lemon, and coconut. My eyes were greedily drawn to the long cookie with a pretty woven pattern pricked into its dough— this one he said, was called corne de gazelle. Horn of the gazelle? I had to have it.
Though it was a little on the dry side, and the less exciting-looking, nameless lemon-flavoured cookie was certainly the tastiest, I was captivated. I guess that's marketing for you!