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And for the dainties of dessert the houris – those nymphs from Paradise with fragrant arms and long black hair and mocha-coloured eyes – bring luscious cakes of date and char-grilled almond, croissants with ornaments of scarlet pearls, oranges, roses, nougats and pastilles, and gââteaux – all adorned like our beautiful girls! – rolled in sugar and perfumed with vanilla. Come forward, oarsmen, for your well-earned share. At Allah’s feast the portions will be equal. Lalla And as sheep turn in the ashes of the spit Maghnia and the rowdy revellers are about to eat, they are dismayed to watch it disappear before their very eyes at my Zaouïïa.
Circle of Desire
Laïïleh The feast is finished and angels bring mint tea and coffee, and in the perfumed vapours of the pipes – the coconut bowls of the narghileh – the houris dance with wispy scarves of cloud-fluff. Mariner It’s thanks to you, O Lalla Maghnia, that Heaven saved us. But intoxication corrupts the mind of brother, husband, father: their hearts are full of lust and bad intention. Pilgrims We all want you, but give you the right to choose amongst us. On the wedding day the joy of the groom is contagious: no one loses when each shares the love of the lucky man. Mariner O Laileh how, with my old bones, am I going to protect you from these madmen? Hamilton
Laïïleh O Allah, I’m afraid. Be in my eyes and words. Let me crush them under my feet like worms. Grant that any man who tries will not be able to advance – or retreat. Pilgrims She’s bringing out her faithful talisman but what can the golden hand of Fathma do? What can it do against our thousand hands? Since you won’t choose, we will all have you. Laïïleh Don’t touch me! This talisman will draw a ring around me whose force you will soon discover for this invisible circle’s not for breaching and Fathma will paralyse the evil mover . . . Dahaau O Allah! Mercy! The weight of all the sea and all the earth and sky is crushing me.