All posts filed under: Essays

Hana Mahmoud Mohamed Saey: The Soul of Palestine

SANCTUARY Two years ago, for the third year of my History and Arabic undergraduate degree, I had to choose from one of four Arab cities for a year of study abroad. I chose Nablus in Palestine. I had an idea of what my trip might be like. From a distance, Palestine somehow still felt very familiar to me. Palestine was frequently in the news for starters, often at the centre of tensions within the Middle East. But also, as a Muslim, and as the daughter of a Christian mother, for me Palestine was very much at the centre of another type of world too.  JERUSALEM It was just after dawn. Daylight was bleeding into the night sky as the moon began its slow descent into the horizon. Crowds of people quietly rushed through the narrow and winding market streets of the Old City, making their way to the Eid Prayer at Masjid al Aqsa (the Furthest Mosque). Worshipers were dressed in their finest attire and the smell of musk filled the air.  My friend took …

Scent As A Sanctuary: Aromatherapy Amongst The Tuareg

Plants have always played a vital role in the physical emotional and spiritual well being of human kind. The Tuareg of Niger are an example of a people for whom scent plays a major role in everyday life, exchange and kinship. The Taureg are a nomadic people largely scattered across North / Northwest Africa. They can be found in Mauritania, northern Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Tunisa, Algeria and Niger. The Tuareg are instantly recognisable as the ‘blue men’ due to the blue cotton turbans/garment (tagelmust) the men wear to protect their faces from the harsh sandy terrain. The Tuareg speak Tamacheq, are largely of Amazigh ethnicity and form a system of clan membership largely practising the religion of Islam. The Tuareg of Niger like many other civilisations before them heavily use the power of aroma, aromatherapy and scent as a part of their sociocultural systems and local sociability. Anthropologist Susan Rasmussen in her 1999 paper ‘Making better scents in Anthropology’ analyses culture from the underexplored standpoint of the circulation of aromas. In her essay, …