Artist in Yemen

I will be in Sana'a, Yemen, May 27-July 10 2006. I'll be working on my Arabic language skills and painting every day, walking around asking questions about food and gardens and perfume and incense. I'll be studying and living at the Center for Arabic Language and Eastern Studies(CALES)in the Old City of Sana'a. Although I usually paint in reverse on glass, in Sana'a I'll be working in watercolor and mixed media on paper.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Perfume and Iron

I just came back from a little round of......perfume sniffing! If you're accustomed to European perfumes, Arabian perfumes are a whole other ballgame: oil based, quite different, very rich. I believe they invented the stuff. It's so much fun to explore them. Right now I'm smelling lots of oudhs, made from a wood that is burned as incense. Oudh is kind of sickening when you first put it on, but it mellows into a rich smoky earthy smell not unlike really good scotch whiskey. Lots of perfume shops have their own recipes, available only from them. You buy the bottle and they fill it for you. Beautiful elaborate metal encased bottles, kind of cheesy until you give in to the extremity of decoration and go ahead and love them.

To counterbalance the perfume sniffing, I walked home through the blacksmiths suq. I love the smell of metal and the sound of the forges and the hammering of metal on metal. It reminds me of Paulus! It's near my house, but sometimes I can find it and sometimes I can't. It's mysterious, a little elevated above the other tiny streets nearby, with just one or two access points. When I leave I'm always disoriented and have to wander lost for awhile before I get my bearings again. I bought a little handmade ax, and got a little rush out of carrying it home through the streets, dressed in my black gown and veil, I felt like the Reaper.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don't go back to sleep. You must ask for what you really want. Don't go back to sleep. People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open. Don't go back to sleep. -Jelaluddin Rumi