1001 Moroccan Scents.

1001 Moroccan Scents.

A few weeks ago I was embarking on a journey that proved to be for me, the opening door to the oriental world and its everlasting magic lands. A world that has always fascinated me , from afar.

I did not know too much of Marrakech other than it is in Morocco and is an exotic destination.

After six days there I understood that Marrakech is actually more than that , and it is more a state of mind.  A way of living and a whole new world , wrapped in mystery, beauty and history.

I went there for a working project, therefore  I did not have the time to go and explore it as a proper tourist.Even so, time has allowed me to see couple of attractions such as: Majorelle Gardens, Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Main Square, Leather Market, Atlas Mountains and the famous city Ait Ben Haddou, part of UNESCO heritage, by the end of my trip.

While being there, time had another connotation and understanding .I have realized at some point that I did lose the track of days, hours and I started to feel how I was diving more and more in that Moroccan witchcraft.

The warm air, culture and the welcoming people, perfectly arranged chaos on the streets,  colours, the rich energy , all the exotic sceneries and of course the scents.

They all contributed in creating a great background for an oriental story.

There is one place that made my soul vibrate even more while I was there.

That was “The Perfume Museum” in Marrakech.

I am and will always be irremediably in love with the art of scents.
For me every scent means a story, an experience no matter if it is good or unpleasant.

A good scent used in good proportions has a great capacity of changing one’s day, mood , life.

With a scent you can go back in time and relive experiences, create new ones, or just find your safe space inside yourself. Through scents you can define love and seduction.

As a dancer, whenever I had a role to dance, besides the usual study and work, the last detail in the process of creating it,  stayed in the perfume I would decide to use.

Due to its position on the the map and multi cultural influences ( Berber, Arabian, European) that have  shaped it, Morocco hides real gems and essences from a perfume lover point of view.

It is well known that perfumes have never been sourced in cold environment.

One can easily say that without sun there is no perfume.

If we go back some hundreds of years ago to the origins of it, in Arabia, the perfume  was usually defined at the association of some substances that were related with beauty and seduction.

Elizabeth de Feydeau mentions in her  book “ The History of Perfume “ that we would not have had perfumes without the Orient.

Most of the substances , from floral to woody and incense ones, have always come from this side of the world.

So, from the moment I found out that there is a place like this in Marrakech, I knew it is an objective not to be missed.

The Museum of Perfume in Marrakech is located in an 19th century Riad in the old city of Medina of Marrakech and has been restaurated by Abderrazzak Benchaâbane in 2006.

Abderrazzak Benchabaane is a living Marrakech legend. He is a garden designer, ethnobotanist, perfumer, teacher, photographer, writer, garden restorer and  publisher.

Through his continuous work you can see the love, care and dedication towards his homeland.

In 1988 he was asked by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé to survey the Majorelle Gardens and to provide all the Latin names for the plants there.

This successful collaboration , led Yves Saint Laurent later in 2002 , in asking Benchaâbane to create an exclusive scent for the Majorelle Gardens.

“I owe my first lesson in perfumery to Yves Saint Laurent, who asked me to create an eau de toilette for the Majorelle Gardens.It was then that the doors to the inebrialy and magical world of fragrances were opened to me.” (Benchaâbane on Creating his first perfume).

In 2004 he was launching his first perfume collection with a signature scent : “Soir de Marrakech”.

Heading towards the museum I was curious to learn what will unfold. Medina of Marrakech is a place where you are not allowed to judge from the appearances, but more after the essence that you will discover behind its walls.

There was a sign on a wall on a small street, saying “ Le musée du parfum” but nothing too obvious or too majestic.

I found rather a modest place , intimate but with a lot of character.

In order to enter  I had  to pay a fee about 50 Moroccan Dirhamand then  I was  invited to go up the stairs  to the first floor where there were already  different rooms.

I could already feel the charm of the past eras, by going up.

The first room is dedicated to the oils and to how they are made.

I learned about the famous Moroccan Argan oil , the Berber figue oil and  Berber pear oil.

The first one is of course the most popular and well known in Europe also. The last two I have discovered them there and also their incredible properties and benefits for skin.

The second room I have entered was called “The alambic and the magic of the distillation”.

Here I learned  the process of distillation and I admired  a very old copper recipient.

Room number 3 is called “ Orgue a parfums”.

Here I found find a replica of the famous perfume orgue that is a professional piece of furniture where the main bottles of raw ingredients used by a perfume are arranged in a semicircle.

On the opposite side I was embarking into an olfactory little trip, in the land of the perfumes of trance.

Incense is one of the principal main ingredients and it is widely used in religious ceremonies and trance rituals.

For example, I found out that the Gnawa musicians in Moroccco burn seven different incenses on their Lila ( nights of trance) according to a very precise code and symbolism.

The fumes from the incense help the dancers enter into the trance by stimulating their nervous system on the rhythms of the spellbinding music.

The incenses burned are:

Black Benzoin, Sudanese benzoin,Red Benzoin,White Benzoin from Mecca. These are variants of the aromatic resin from the Sytax Benzoin tree , originally from Java.  The list of incense is completed by Salabane,( true incense from The Oliban tree) and other  three plants: OumEnnas, Coriander, and Laktira.

Another well known and very important essence is the myrrh .

One might already know that myrrh is an aromatic resin and its history is as ancient as that of the incense.

It is referred to, as an embalming oil, holy oil ( Jewish tradition) but also as a perfume associated with eroticism.

Myrrh was carried out from the places  production in present day – Yemen , by the camel caravans of the Nabateans to Petra, from where it was distributed through the Mediterranean. It is well known that myrrh was considered an expensive product and was negotiated at the price of gold.

In perfumery , its glory has risen to higher levels as it is used particularly in the perfumes of the  Orient, where it enhances the sensuality of the rose.

In the corner of this mystical room  ,there is a built in tree.In its branches I noticed several Moroccan copper recipients in which, there are placed essences.

I like to believe  I have a well trained nose, and for me it is almost a love affair to discover and get in contact with new scents.

I am both an incense and myrrh lover .Yet I have never experienced such a sensation while smelling the ones there.Each recipient with the different types of incenses oud and myrrh was opening a new door in my head and they were  wrapping me in comfort, sensuality and  in the same time  awakening emotions like: happiness, joy and gratitude .

An experience to remember !

The fourth room is a darker obscure room where I was  introduced to the 7 scents of Morocco:

Odorous Verbena, Saffron, The Cedar of Atlas, Minth, The rose of Dades,Jasmine, Orange Blossom.

I found there a proper description of each essence and also a recipient similar to the ones above where I could experience their scent.

I loved all. The ones which attracted me the most were The Cedar of Atlas and the Saffron. I Never thought that a spice highly used in the food industry can prove to be an excellent perfume.

Going downstairs, I found ” Le boudoir de Madame Parfum” , where a collection of international perfumes were exposed .

And now , The fun part comes !

Downstairs after the museum visit, I will finally entered  this little room where all the raw essences are exposed , in little or larger bottles but also Benchaâbane’s collection of perfumes.

They call it “ The perfume bar”.

Here you an  test them all and even create under proper guidance, your very own bottle of personalized perfume.

I thought that suddenly I have landed in a sort of heaven.

I was told by the lady that was in charge :” Don t smell more than 3 essences at once. After that you have to smell coffee.And also don’t inhale too deep.”

I did take her advices seriously and tried as much as I could not to dive in all those scents, but rather to take from each bottle a sniff of beauty.

She also talked about the difference of eau de perfume, eau de toilette.She explained how it is done but also answered all my perfume nerdie questions.

I am not a chemist although this passion that I have for scents, I believe  would be enough to make me look towards this direction one day.

Besides perfumes, here you can also choose a type of oil that you want then add some perfume essence and create your own special skin treatment.Or for a nice present to someone.

Marcel Proust was saying:

“Perfume remains the most tenacious form of memory”.

I ended up buying 4 bottles of pure essence perfumes.

I left smiling inside out,with my heart full of this wonderful  experience.

What truly makes me happy is to know that out there in this world, there are  people who believe in beauty, In art and that they can make a difference in this world.

It  showed me that in order to create something unique, you gotta stick to your values, passion and your soul. These are those ingredients which are making  the result special and completely yours!

I do believe that the arts of dance and scents are strongly related. Once you experience them both at the highest and best level possible, you shall be forever captured and bewitched by them.

To all the artists out there , no matter what is their skill, I will say: Thank You.

In today’s world we definitely  need more authenticity ,  imagination and creativity and more of this magic.

“Creating Perfumes means telling a poetic story where each fragrance brings memories to mind”.