There is no end to the contradictions I consist of. Perfumewise I’m craving freshness and I’ve done more then one trip to the perfume counters looking for a little something citrus-y to put on my wrist. I have returned with a few samples but mostly bought baklava. The jury is still out on wether I will change perfume, make-up routine and possibly the way I dress due to the change of glasses.(It must however be pointed out that it might be the other way around; that I chose glasses diametrically opposite to the ones I had because I wanted a new look so it would have happened anyway. In fact this is likelier. However will always love baklava).
So while my head wants new things (all lightness and lemons) my body is call for something completely different; sugar and comfort(sugar is comfort?).
Those two things comes together in my fascination with the Nile.
I spent a part of my childhood in Egypt, mostly Cairo. One rather long stretch, we lived there, and several visits. It is a place close to my heart; my first memories are from sitting in the back of a taxi being amazed with the light and the palm trees. As a child I was more into the old history of Egypt; the pharaohs and the pyramids. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the interesting era of the Mamelucks or realized how egyptian culture shaped the Arab world, or indeed what a dictatorial regime was and that I have lived in one, and why we were there in the first place. That said, foreigners were rarely a subject to egyptian law, and as is still often the case with first world staff in third world countries; we only spent time with our own group. Which in my case were other children, the imaginary friend that everyone claims I had back then( I have no memory of this what so ever) and the stray cat that moved in on our balcony with her kittens.
Having that sort of connection with a place doesn’t ensure that you will read everything about it(my brother cares not one bit and never has). In this case I think the experience mingled with some of my genetically codified personality traits; I’ve never committed to collecting anything full on but rather there are several areas of special interest, the Nile being one of them.
I’ll buy almost anything with the Nile in the title. I’ve bought and read some wonderful books on the subject(and many awful ones). The most classic, and on point, are Alan Moorehead’s books “The blue nile” and “The white nile” from the 60’s. These were bestsellers and it turns out they were even translated to swedish. In them Moorehead explores and more importantly writes the history of the Nile and it’s two parts: the blue Nile being the lower part starting in Khartoum and all the way through Egypt and the White nile, from the origin in Lake Victoria through the high plateaus of Sudan. It is travel writing at it’s finest; they felt very fresh and I felt like a child on an adventure reading them. (You can almost hear the theme to Indiana Jones while doing so).
With the travel writing, and wonderful watercolors, of Florine Asch there is more some very sophisticated jazz that would be the soundtrack. I can look at the pictures in this book forever.
Apricots on the Nile by Colette Rossant should have been mentioned when I stacked up the foodie memoirs but it had fallen behind other books, so I bring it up now. Rossant is the child of an Egyptian-Jewish father and a french mother. When her father dies she was raised by her grandparents in Cairo and didn’t live with her mother until she was 15. Very dramatic, well told and mouth watering recipes. All of it is very “old world”, almost like a novel by Agatha Christie, but she also writes leveling about the food, the light and evokes the lush gardens where she.
Which brings us to the closest thing I have to a signature scent, one of two scents that I’ve bought more then once(or in this case been given) and that I bought first time without having had a whiff of it; entirely based on the name.
I read about it in a fashion magazine and had no possibility at the time to smell it anywhere. That said I wasn’t exactly making a crazy bet; it’s from the Hermés perfume line and Jean-Claude Ellena had created it; even then I knew that I was in good hands and so asked someone who was traveling to buy me a bottle on the duty free in a well-stocked airport. And I loved it. It was fresh but didn’t smell like a cleaning product. It was an abstraction of citrus in a way. I wouldn’t say that it in any way reminds me of the smell of Cairo(which is more about hot asphalt,trash and jasmine; Mona di Orio used to have a scent that captured it exactly).
The whole story about the perfume I read about later in the wonderful “The perfect scent-a year in the perfume industry” by Chandler Burr ( a fascinating read even if one isn’t a wearer of the perfumes it focuses on; Un garden sur le Nil and Lovely på Sarah Jessica Parker) so add that to the list of books I’m trying to bully you into reading.
Anyways; it says in the description that “Un Jardin Sur le Nil” smells of green mangoes and lotus flowers. If they say so: having never smelled them I have no reference. To me it smells of old fashioned soap, grapefruit juice and sunshine. In short a wonderful morning. I have a weak spot for colognes in general and this has a lot of those qualities except that is one of the Ellena scents that doesn’t evaporate from my skin in under four seconds and stays longer then a cologne would. But it is most decidedly a mood enhancer for me. This was revolutionary scent when it came(or so I have gathered from reading about it later) but this feels like a modern classic now. Remind me again; why am I running around trying perfumes when I have a bottle of this?