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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?

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