Looking through some of my photographs, I found this picture of my grandfather as a first year engineering student.

grandfather reading

He posed for the photo, but in my recollections of him, a book–and a fishing rod–are ever present.

Damask Roses and Roses of Damascus

Occasionally I come across articles mentioning “roses from Syria” as “a precious” ingredient in perfumes. One of the pieces even appeared in a newspaper that runs daily reports on the war in Syria. But real world events don’t enter into the fantasy bubble of beauty writing, with absurd and morbid results.  We’re conditioned to think of perfume as something so rarefied and intangible that for all we know angels pick the flowers and blend essences in their celestial realms. The thought that a country, which has been at war for five years, might have difficulty growing roses doesn’t cloud the writers’ imaginations.


Until the war, which started in 2011, Syria produced 80 tonnes of roses, some of which were distilled on site and some exported to be processed in Europe. Syria wasn’t as large a producer as Turkey, Bulgaria or Morocco, but its roses had a delicious raspberry nuance. The last commercial sample I was able to get in 2011 still smells of sun warmed fruit and spicy honey. Damascus and the other rose growing provinces have suffered tremendously during the war, especially the area held by the revolutionary army and targeted in the heavy bombing campaigns by the Syrian regime.  People have fled from the fighting, leaving plantation owners with few work hands and resources. As a one-time distiller told a reporter of The Express Tribune, “Today there are barely 250 grams (half a pound) of oil available to buy in the whole market.” What are the chances that it makes its way into a perfume produced by a luxury brand?

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10 Fall Perfumes With a Retro Accent

Retro, vintage, old-fashioned. These terms, with various nuances, suggest fragrances that smell of another time. Elisa explores some of her favorite perfume examples.  What’s dated to one person is a retro classic to another.

What smells old-fashioned or,  more positively, “classic” or “retro” to any given nose is bound to change over time. In the near future, I suspect, the berry-and-peony fruity-florals and fruitchoulis that were ubiquitous in the late ‘90s and aughts will smell nostalgically old-fashioned to some, dated to others. Hillary Clinton reportedly wears Angel, and I recently heard a young YouTube star describe Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle as her most “mature” smelling perfume!


The perfumes I’ve been reaching for most this fall aren’t the all-time classics – the Shalimars, the Mitsoukos, the Chanel No. 5’s. But these scents, mostly born in the ‘70s and ‘80s, remind me of the grande dames of my youth, who weren’t in the least intimidated by unforgivingly sharp green chypres, loud and complicated florals, or deeply powdery orientals, all with massive sillage. To me, these are the new retro classics.

Chanel Coco 

When I first encountered Coco on a perfume counter many years ago, I found it confusing. What exactly was this mess, which couldn’t decide whether to be sweet or not? But now it smells complex and incredibly luxurious, especially in the parfum – all spicy, rosy florals and amber with a dry, animalic leather note cutting through. I’ve come to think of Coco as the quintessential, night-at-the-opera floriental.

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Perfume in the Library: Hafez’s Rose and A Wine Cup

Oh, come let’s scatter rose petals and fill the cup with wine;
let’s tear the ceiling of the universe and create a new one.
If the army of woes is intent on shedding the lovers’ blood,
Cup-bearer and I will ride together and uproot the army’s foundation!
We’ll pour rose water in the bowl of purple wine;
we’ll in censer pour the sweetness of the scented wind. (ghazal 129)**

I’m reading Hafez in Shiraz. The marble steps are cool, and the autumnal sunlight thick as honey clings to the blue tiled dome of Hafeziye, a poet’s tomb. Hafez was born in this city known for its culture, sensuality and pleasure-loving ways, and even today Shirazi are proud to reinforce their reputation as sybarites with a sly sense of humor. It’s a regular weekday, but at Hafeziye there is the aura of an endless fest. A group of students reads poetry. A turbaned man in the flowing dress of a mullah pays his respects at the tomb. Two heavily made up young women with prominent post-surgery bandages on their noses pose for a selfie.  Couples exchange glances, verses and phone numbers. Somehow, I think that Hafez wouldn’t mind.

“Color your prayer rug with wine,” writes Hafez, one of the most remarkable poets and mystical thinkers. Remarkable for his imaginative allusions, for his unveiling of hypocrisy and for his limitless passion which pours out in his verses through metaphors of love, perfume and wine.

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Roses and Jasmine : Skin Toners

One of my favorite discoveries during my stays in Japan was the skincare. Any beauty store, from the glitzy establishments like Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya to the emporia like Matsumoto Kiyoshi and Ainz & Tulpe, has knowledgeable staff that not only can help you select the right products, but also diagnose your skin type and choose the right regimen. This is how I discovered the versatility and usefulness of face toners and mists. In my new column, Putting on the spritz: face mists, I cover some of my favorite products, both naturally scented and fragrance-free, as well as ways to incorporate them into a skincare routine.

Although my face toner schooling took place in Japan, most of the products I use are made by the American and European brands that offer well-formulated and interesting choices in all price ranges. I mention all of my top favorites in the article: Clinique, Tata Harper, May Lindstrom, Omorovicza, pure rosewater and more.

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Latest Comments

  • Marilyn Stanonis in Reading: Victoria, you were so kind to encourage me to send my grandfather’s picture, and I appreciate that so much. I couldn’t manage to send it; no matter how many ways… October 22, 2016 at 4:41pm

  • Angel P. in Recommend Me a Perfume : September 2016: Hi. I’m a newbie about to do perfume shopping and aim at 2, so I’d like to ask for recommendations. My profile: female 25yo, like fragrances that are not too… October 22, 2016 at 11:47am

  • katherine x in Reading: Thanks so much for sharing Victoria. Your love and respect for your family is undeniable, beautiful and totally understandable! Gorgeous photo. And even if he is posing, it’s hard to… October 20, 2016 at 8:50pm

  • rainboweyes in Reading: I’m reading A History of Reading at the moment. The photo of your grandfather would fit in perfectly! October 20, 2016 at 4:54pm

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