Yesterday we went for an evening stroll out our door and down the block. We crossed the first street and walked by the shop with the small brass dog that sits on its haunches and holds open the door beside the group of men who always sit in their rattan chairs, chatting and passing the time. Hazel plops down to pet the patient creature, and soon we're in the shop, shaking hands with the proprietor Abdul, accepting his offer of mineral water, looking at pictures of him with his arm around clients in LA whose homes he's decorated (Samuel L. Jackson, Lawrence Fishburne), watching one of his men ask Hazel which necklace she'd like to have from the great painted bowl of necklaces conveniently situated at her feet, looking at each other when he says what size rug do you want to buy, or do you like which mirror? Here are some beautiful mirrors (he speaks low and fast to his assistants and snaps fingers for them to bring down mirrors in sizes I might like), we can send anything to anywhere, no problem (he lived in La Jolla he says, and Florida). He speaks a mixture of French and English to us, always gracious, but also pushing, pushing, and then even better price since you live down the block and don't need to send anything to the States. Here are pictures of my two girls, my wife, he pulls them out of his wallet and we watch as he offers Hazel a view of his smiling 8-month old. Good prices here -- this henna'd camel-bone mosaic bound mirror? Other shops? in the Medina? much more expensive -- here, 300Dh.
And just like that we find ourselves folded into Abdul's car, being zoomed (as it turned out just around the corner) to his vaster emporium of North African wares -- he pulls up, stops with a jerk, I just catch Hazel as she lurches forward almost off my lap. We're ushered down a hallway lined with silver decanters and trays gleaming from behind glass, then into a high-ceilinged room, leather bags and purses and sacks of all sorts stretching up to the rafters, other clients sitting with empty tea glasses and crumpled napkins, slipper upon curled slipper stacked on shelves, elephants of all sizes and brass camels parading along the floors, more mirrors bound in silver and bone and silver tea pots and glass tea cups all tucked into alcoves to right and left along the main aisle, then finally rug stacked upon colorful rug and lining all four walls of the the great room at the back, this one lit by the sun still stretching long dusty shafts through a high bank of windows. We are whisked and urged and cajoled and petted by a series of sellers, while shop-assistants, who must still be in their teens, unsnap and spread on the tiled floor kilim after lovely kilim. Pour vous, moins cher -- bien sur, un prix spécial. For you, 20% off our normal prices. Hazel chases the elephants and Paul wrangles Hazel while I look first at the deep red and bright orange tapis and then that deep blue one with the red fringe (dyed using indigo, the gentleman says) then another more beautiful than the last, before we thank all concerned as profusely as we can manage, say how beautiful the wares, really and truly, walk empty-handed down back through the leaning towers of goods and down the glass and wood hallway, and finally spit ourselves back out onto the cooling tile of the sidewalk, wondering what just happened.
I guess we look like we have the money, the look of an obvious and quick sell. Anyway. Paul said later that when he was Hazel-chasing, Abdul asked him if we were buying anything and when Paul said he thought not, he took off down the aisle towards the exit. We walked by again today (Hazel got down on her knees to say hello to the dog and give him some water from her sippy-cup) and the kinder, less hustle-hustle assistant said hello and asked if we'd bought anything the day before -- no-no, we live here, we'll take our time... so maybe that's how it goes the first time around when you look like we do in this place.