Jasmine scented breeze waft playfully through spring’s mellow air. Its smell blends with mingling wild birdsong beneath noon’s warm sun. The sweet scent of jasmine fills the senses as you step in someone’s home and are welcomed with heavenly smells that calm the mind.
Long before terminologies in gardening such as the pedestrian experience were invented, people in this part of the world understood its importance. The pedestrian experience is the idea of creating an entry path to your home that provides interest in itself by adding little details in gardening to the entryway.
With the beautiful transitional seasonal weather of Lebanon, many people add jasmine to their gardens or grow them in pots on the deck or patio to scent the night air. You can hardly pass a house in any Lebanese village without a certain aromatic plant being there at the entrance welcoming visitors, from jasmine, rosemary, basil, to gardenia, all depending on the amount of light the garden gets. The most common one though is jasmine. This tradition is carried out in the city too although less present nowadays.
Jasmine is one of the most seductive scents going. It belongs to the Genus ‘Jasminum’ and includes over 200 species of plants, most of which originated in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Its name comes from the Persian word ‘yasmin’ meaning gift from God. Yasmin is also what it’s called in Lebanon.
Jasmine is valued in many countries as well. It is the national flower of Pakistan. Both the bride and groom wear garlands of white jasmine and red roses on their wedding day. Floral bouquets of jasmine and roses are also used to celebrate special occasions, and in burial garlands meaning a final farewell. In the Philippines, garlands of jasmine adorn the participants in religious ceremonies while Indonesians use jasmine for wedding ceremonies. In Thailand, jasmine is the symbol for mother and portrays love and respect. It also represents the beauty of modesty; a small and simple white flower that can produce such sweet fragrance
In Lebanon, The Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac), is traditionally planted at doorways, entrances and archways where its scent can be better appreciated. It is a vigorous climber, especially the common kind, and often makes a dense mound of stems. The star-shape blooms in yellow or white and perfumes the air. Some types are especially fragrant at night. It is planted to create a welcoming scent to one’s home, as this is one plant you often smell before you see. Another reason it’s planted at the entrance is so visitors can rub their hands with blossoms to freshen up before entering into the host’s home.
Before the notion of perfume was created, Mediterranean women used to place a couple of jasmine flowers in their bras so they could smell of fresh flowers all day. Up to this day, you might be lucky to see a couple of old women picking jasmine flowers and placing them in their bras. Yet again, way before the notion of scented candles was invented, in Lebanon people were aromatizing the air around their homes wit the beautiful scent of jasmine, having always understood the importance of creating an aromatizing ambiance as a welcoming gesture into one’s “dar” (home).
In our part of the world, hospitality, cleanliness, and being “midyaf” (welcoming to people) are all traits that are highly appreciated and most people share in common. This little star like flower with its intoxicating smell is a reminder of those traits we hold so dear: to welcome friends into our home and to create this element of intrigue or excitement to this experience as the scent builds up beautifully with the welcoming notes of “ahla wo sahla” (welcome in, you are now family to us: https://365daysoflebanon.com/2015/11/04/ahla-wo-sahla/).
Hiding its buds under the leaves, only the breeze was allowed to touch them, to carry away the scent on their tongues, licking the moisture from the white skins, and blowing gentle puffs into the wide mouth of the gaping wind. The jasmine blooms with beauty and keeps one locked in its aura.
Because Jasmine will always remind me of home, of binding roots…