The Girl Selling Dates

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In Meknes, the Medina is a constant. The sellers in the market fill their stalls day after day, offering the same woven rugs and spices as they did the day before. The smells of each alley and corridor were always the same but no passage smelled the like another. It’s a small market compared to the ones in the big cities like Fez or Marrakech, but it’s familiar, manageable. The market is slow today, she thought. Must be because of the rain. Nadia and her sister sit on wobbly wooden stools next to each other in their stall, resting their arms and elbows on the shelves full of dates, apricots, nuts and pastries. There is nothing really to talk about, today is a lot like yesterday. The radio hums along with the bustle of the market. Her parents owned this stall, and now that she and her sister are old enough, their father has them manage it for him.

Being a woman seller in the market is tough; it’s men’s territory. But Nadia knows she’s not alone, that there are many women who have their own stalls and who rival all of the big-shot sellers in the market. It is a slow day. A cat wanders by, still wet from the rain outside. A couple old men talk and laugh loudly leaning against the wooden crates near the hanging meat. Nadia’s thoughts wander as she stares off down one of many long hallways of the market.

Eventually, she feels her sister elbow her and looks up to see a group of girls, possibly European, maybe American, standing in front of her stall. It always surprised her when people picked her goods over the others all around her. Meknes doesn’t get too many tourists but enough for her to be able to tell that these were American girls. Americans are easy to rip off; she’d seen it happen many times. Nadia quickly snaps out of her daydreaming and stands, nodding to the Americans. She wants to be cool and confident like she had seen the other women in the market act. She doesn’t speak at first, waiting for them to approach her. The American girls point to the dates asking, “how much?” and she responds, in English, a price maybe triple what she would have offered a Moroccan. She sets her jaw firm but there is a glimmer of playfulness in her eyes, she wants to know what the Americans will do, sort of as an experiment, for her own curiosity. Her sister glances at her and sits back down, bored but mildly interested in the exchange. The American girls offer half of her first offer and she feels the eyes of the male sellers on her, watching her. It’s all a game really. She shakes her head no, and smirks at them, undermining them, as if they don’t know what they’re doing. The girls look at each other, unsure, and offer a little less than her first offer. Nadia smiles and shakes her head. She’s in charge and it feels good. She hopes the men are still watching her. Finally, the Americans agree to pay her first price, each buying a half-kilo and leaving, smiling at her like she had done them a favor. Nadia smiled back and waved, then turned to her sister who rolled her eyes and chuckled at her. Of course she felt a little bad for ripping off the poor tourists, but after all they’re just dates, and God knows they had the money. The air was humid, but the day was cooling down and Nadia knew it was almost time to close down. It was a pretty good day. She smiled, remembering that it was raining. She loved the way the Medina smelled when it rained.

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