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Seif Talks About Jasmine?

September 2, 2010

So this is a very… different post. No in-depth, interviewish type post today. Instead, I’m gonna take it far from Beirut to the Jasmine flower aka Yasmine (in Arabic).

Guys will usually say “we don’t have a favourite flower”, but I guess I do. It’s not because I think this flower is beautiful, in fact… it’s very ordinary, very small, and just plain white. But it’s the smell that drives me insane. It’s absolutely heavenly.  I used to tell my mother when I was younger that it’s smell would relax me, and actually help me fall asleep! Years passed and I rediscovered that this is true… no matter how weird it sounds.

Different types

There is more than one type or “species” of Jasmine on this planet, some with much larger flowers than others, but forget about those. The Jasmine I talk about is the Damascus Jasmine… which unlike most other Jasmine species grows like a vine, and can grow meters and meters tall (with the help of a wall of course). The smell of the Damascene Jasmine is much more radiant than that of the other types, it’s lighter, lasts longer, and weirdly enough… smells “sweeter”. Sweeter you may be thinking? But yes sweeter. The larger Jasmine plants have a more “bitter” smell in them. I’m not a flower expert, so I really do not know how to describe it, so if any flower smelling experts come across this… let me know how to describe the bitter vs sweet smell :P. But it’s really true, and anyone who has smelt different types of Jasmines will know exactly what it is I’m talking about. A lot of people will argue and say that roses, gardenias, and lilacs smell better. Forget that fancy stuff, the Jasmine flower is simple, but unlike the simplicity of the flower the radiant smell it gives is remarkable… and kicks the gardenia’s behind!

Damascene Jasmine

I first came across Jasmine in Canada some time ago, it was the larger type of flower, so it really wasn’t something I paid very much attention to. However, in Damascus one time, during blooming season, I kept smelling this flower in every corner, on every street, and every alleyway… especially in the older neighborhoods of the city. No wonder Damascus is called the City of Jasmine… actually Syrian President Bashar El Assad had everyone in Damascus plant this flower on their balconies or in their courtyards… a wise move Mr.President…a wise move! The flower is very small actually, but so powerful. You can actually differentiate between this Jasmine and the other species, because it so powerful. The Damascenes were very famous for taking this flower and turning it into Jasmine oil. Jasmine oil is VERY expensive, often referred to as liquid gold in ancient times because of it’s price… and traits. Not only does it smell beautiful, but it replaces sleeping drugs, sinus decongestants, and is believed to keep skin looking younger. Today the oil is still expensive, mainly because nobody has mastered it quite like the Damascene people, not to mention the painstaking picking of the tiny flowers, and actually getting enough of them to make the oil. It’s like picking saffron actually. 1,000 lbs of flowers yield approximately one pound of liquid concrete, which yields 0.2% aromatic molecules. And Syrians are famous for making it VERY concentrated, which equals a very large price tag. You can find the cheap stuff online for $31.99 and so on, but to get the good stuff, we are talking $150 American for about 50 ml… if he’s in a good mood. I personally prefer the plant hanging around the house or in the yard…. much cheaper, and “prettier”.

The vines start growing like this, then the main stem thickens and grows taller

I think everyone has smelt Jasmine once in their lifetime, someone even told me he gets migraines from the smell, but I guess I’m a sucker for it. I liked it so much I had my uncle bring 4 healthy plants from Damascus one day. They were about a meter in height each, and too young to have very much flowers on them. We planted them in the ground on each side of the house (this is out of Zahle city), as there is a lot of land behind and around it (middle of nowhere in the Zahle province)… two years later they had grown to great heights, wrapping around the balcony railing and attempting to  extending higher. My room in the stone house has a window facing the mountains, and from it I always had a clear view. We left for a while, and upon returning to it in 2007, the window of the room was completely covered in Jasmine vine. Hey I’m not complaining… they smelt amazing! My uncle however decided to get fancy and cut much of the vine off on the other side of the house, ignoring my angry nagging after he did so… but the jokes on him… they grow back much stronger after you “prune them”. I did not visit my hometown this summer… so their state is a bit of a mystery to me. I’m afraid to ask, because I don’t want my uncle to tell me he had them uprooted or something… but I guess I can get over it, as the balcony in Beirut now has one growing on it as well :). Lina, my friend, has the key to the place… it’s her job to water it and tend to it as needed, which should not be hard, as they are a “hardy plant”, and do not need much tending to. I also came across one in Canada at t he supermarket. It said “Damascene Jasmine” on the pot, so I thought what the heck…. I’ll take it. It died soon after because inadequate sunlight in the home, not to mention it probably froze on the way home in the -40 weather.

Jasmine, is really an awesome plant. It has a lot of relaxing qualities apparently associated with it’s scent (something I witness to), and really easy to take care of. If I could have it planted everywhere, I really would.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 2, 2010 11:30 pm

    Sabahak yasmine… What a wonderful post to wake up to!!!! Another thing we have in common too. I have always loved yasmine and it is my first recollection of a folower when I was growing up in Tunisia as there, in the summer, vendors go around, with a basket they balace on their head, with jasmine necklaces and bouquets and every man has one stuck in his ear and every lady has one around her neck. And at home we always had them either in the garden or on the balcony. In London it is the first thing I got, and now in Dubai, I of course have my fil and yasmine pots. The scent or oil you talk about is indeed precious and it is what I use. I found a lady who sells these oils in a tiny weeny shop in Hamra. I go to see her each time I visit and she stocks me up with vials of yasmine and a special mixture of fil and yasmine. Next time I am there I will send you one. Great post, as usual, thank you. (ps. the 3rd, 4th and 5th pics at the top are fil, not yasmine) 🙂

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 3, 2010 10:00 pm

      Wow, another thing in common indeed! And what a beautiful thing to have in common if I do say so myself! Your recollection of Tunisia makes me want to visit it even more than I already do. I have always seen the Jasmine necklaces and I can just imagine how beautiful they must smell, and how beautiful they are when worn…it’s a remarkable flower, no matter how tiny it is!
      No way! I searched and asked about this oil so much in Lebanon, and nobody would even know where I could find it. Like I said I searched in Syria many times, but sometimes the prices were… UNBELIEVABLE. Your so sweet Mich, God bless you… I’m curious now though… does this store have a tiny weeny name? Hehehe care to share the secret location of this treasure?

      Thanks again for your comments! ❤

  2. September 2, 2010 11:45 pm

    Really different post this time. Wow, Jasmine, reminds me of my younger years, and the summer times I spent at the mountains. I used to have a plant myself & enjoyed the smell a lot!

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 3, 2010 10:02 pm

      Gaby, when I’m in Lebanon I must bring you to the Bekaa for a weekend in Zahle! And Mich as well when we are both there nshallah. You’ll like the immense jasmines that grow at our home there and the view with good food!

  3. Dar El Akhdar permalink
    September 3, 2010 12:19 am

    I wash my clothes with Tide Jasmine scent – does that make me a Jasmin-o-holic? 😀
    Great, unexpected post buddy!

    • BeirutiAdventures permalink
      September 3, 2010 10:00 pm

      haha I’ll say yes. Jasmine Tide counts haha!

      Thanks again bro, always a pleasure finding a comment from you! 🙂

  4. Laura Gharazeddine permalink
    September 5, 2010 6:29 pm

    I’ve loved Jasmine since I was little-there’s lots of different varieties in Southern California. Now, in Hawaii, there’s a bush near my door (on one side of my lanai-on the other, a huge Mandevilla tree that sends it’s perfume-and they meet in the middle, in my room, and co-mingle for my delight! In Hawaiian, it’s Pikake. Considered to be the perfume of Heaven. The special lei made of all tiny Pikake buds, are incredible (and expensive) They look like a thick rope, woven of white beads.. A cloud of scent surrounds you, getting stronger as the day goes on and the buds open a little. The scent of Heaven, indeed!

  5. September 6, 2010 6:15 am

    Well I’ll share a secret with you, when I was a kid, at the age of 5 or 6 I named myself Yasmina LOL :$ all due to the plant we had outside our villa in KSA before we came back to Lebanon! *sigh* those were good times =)

    Mom loves Jasmine, I always pick a couple of the tiny flowers to bring her home whenever I come across one!

    My favorite flower though, is the “Plumeria alba” or الفتنة widely spread in Beirut! I love LOVE its colors and scent..

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