"Morocco is a land of color, culture, beauty and history. But without a doubt, it is a country of smells – smells that I fondly consider a part of my life here" - Kendra Burpee
|A tourist catches a whiff of the tannery|
The old Medina of Fez has its aromas - some subtle, some not so. Ask most visitors and they will describe the pungent odour of the tanneries, or the fresh donkey droppings - not to mention anything about the cats. Kendra, who we quoted above, is a student staying in Fez as part of the International Academic Programs, University of Wisconsin Madison. She writes eloquently about the smells of the Medina.
When I step out of my front door into the labyrinth that is my city, I am forced to lunge out of the way of a herd of donkeys as they pass. They have huge bags attached to their backs and the man following them is collecting garbage in the bags. These donkeys are the garbage trucks of the old medina. The smell of their dirty bodies and the garbage is too strong for that early in the morning, but that is just the beginning. As soon as I rush by them, it’s the smell of cat pee that fills my nostrils. I swear that cats outnumber humans in this city. As I pass the spice market, I can almost taste the cumin, cardamom and ginger in my mouth.
As I continue on, if I’m unlucky I’ll smell the rancid pigeon droppings drifting over from the leather tanneries. I turn another corner and have to dodge the man pushing the cart of sardines. By this time my stomach starts to feel uneasy, so I hardly see the animal skins and wool hanging out on clotheslines as I speed by...
The constant lingering smell of donkey dung never leaves me as I turn and climb my way out of the winding carless roads.
The Aroma is called "Fez"
Yet, for others the smells of Fez are completely different. Take Katharine L’Heureux. Katharine's lifelong pursuit of natural skincare that works finally culminated in a trip to Morocco where she discovered the effectiveness of pure argan oil. Founder and CEO of Kahina Giving Beauty, Katharine set out to capture the aroma of Fez. The result?
A lightweight argan oil base with 16 other oils, from watermelon and coconut to cumin and clove, to “create this more luxurious spreadable texture,” she said. It’s also the brand’s first scented product. The aroma is called Fez. Putting it on is a warm, sensory experience meant to transport the wearer to the Moroccan city, one of L’Heureux’s favorite places. “I wanted something evocative of that multilayered city that combines spirituality with all the scents of the spice market and the souk and the floral notes that happen in the spring, when the orange flower blossoms are just spilling through the streets.”Watermelon, coconut, cumin and clove? What no donkey? No cat? L’Heureux says “I’ve never personally been a big scent person, but I love the idea of evoking places.” Fair enough, not a big scent person. She does however have a sense of good taste - on her trips to Fez she stays at the gorgeous Riad Laaroussa and dines at Dar Roumana. And while one might question her success in capturing the authentic aromas of Fez, there is another side to her business that is to be applauded.
More and more companies are doing some form of giving back. Our brand is unique in that our mission is fully integrated with our product, connecting the consumer on an emotional level to our cause – and to our brand. Starting with giving back 25% of profits to the women who extract the oil at the heart of our line, incorporating their signatures into our package design, and naming the product line after a Berber queen, we continue to try to build a bridge between women here and the Berber women of Morocco.Katharine continues to visit the cooperatives from which Kahina’s argan oil is sourced to ensure the fair and proper treatment of the Berber women who extract it—women whose signatures grace each package in the Kahina Giving Beauty line.
|"It leaves my skin and soul feeling blessed"|
"MYSTERIOUS, SENSUAL AND EXOTIC, A COMPLEX BLEND OF OILS INSPIRED BY FEZ TO REPLENISH AND RESTORE DRY SKIN"
Putting aside the orientalist language, it is a good thing that 25% of the profits are being returned to the Moroccan women. The price of 98 USD a bottle is 11 times the average daily wage of women working in the Fez Medina and a great deal more than those in rural areas.
Just as an aside, Katherine, you write that Fez was founded in 787. In fact the city was founded in 859.