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Monday, October 06, 2008 

City of Jamine

Jasmine is the flower of Damascus.
No Jasmine in the world smells like the Damascene Jasmine. But as the city jumped head-first into the Soviet-style progress of the 1960s and 70s, that smell was replaced by the odour of petrol fumes, building site work, dust and cigarettes.
By the turn of the century, the idea of Jasmine in Damascus had become just that - an idea, a memory, slowly fading away until it became nothing more than a myth. But people live on myths, and imagined memories. So a massive Jasmine planting programme began a few years ago. 5000 plants sprung up across the capital, surrounding almost every public building.
Walk along the streets at night, especially at this time of year, and the scent of Jasmine becomes overpowering.
I have some Jasmine scent in a bottle that I take with me when I travel. Its job is to remind me what this city smells like. But truth got mixed up with imagination a few nights ago. I was walking through Damascus, and I could smell the Jasmine. I racked my brain trying to think what it reminded me of.
Then it came to me - the flowers brought back the memory of my bottle of scent.

Your post makes me think of this poem by Vicente Huidobro, a Chilean poet who was particularly prominent during the post-WWI literary vanguard in Paris and Madrid. The poem is called "Luna" and unfortunately loses its formatting when I copy/paste.

Estábamos tan lejos de la vida
Que el viento nos hacía suspirar


Inútilmente hemos huido
El invierno cayó en nuestro camino
Y el pasado lleno de hojas secas
Pierde el sendero de la floresta
Tanto fumamos bajo los árboles
Que los almendros huelen a tabaco

Sobre la vida lejana
alguien llora
Y la luna olvidó dar la hora

Here's a rather rough English translation:

We were so far from life
that the wind made us sigh


Uselessly have we fled
Winter fell across our route
And the past filled with dry leaves
Loses the trail in the grove
We smoked so much under the trees
That the almond trees smell of tobacco

Over the distant life
someone cries
And the moon forgot to give the time

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About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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