The Henna Souq has a determinable atmosphere, defined by the wind in the leaves of its two plane trees and the towering building of the 13th Century Maristan at its heart. Lining the small square are little shops, some of them no bigger than three metre square, of which around half are cosmetic herbalists. There is also the old weighing scales, which are still used today when large quantities of herbs are brought here by merchants. It is the home to Simohammed, a friend to many in the city, who operates one of the shops alongside his brother. Always inviting visitors to sit and drink tea with him, it easily becomes a rest-stop on a day of earnest wanderings up and down the hills of the medina. The chance you get to sit in the presence of the square is often enough to reveal just a hint of its magic.
Essential Description: Belonging to the Kfūf family of plants, its leaf resembles that of potentilla reptins, grown in gardens and near water, and is divided into two types: masculine and feminine.
The masculine does not produce fruit, but the feminine does. They are known by the names Shahdānij and Shahdānī respectively (meaning Sultan of Love). It is soaked and macerated much like flax, to produce ropes and cloth. Known to the general population of the Maghreb as Qinab. It is grown in great quantities in the region of Meknes.
The thick red copper cauldron (sṭal – سطل) is rounded perfectly to the base, mottled with spots, it shows years of work, even though to me it is new. Its handles are also perfectly rotund, nailed to the sides with two handmade splints. An arm’s length in diameter, it sits plump on the stove. I fire it up.