Fragances, Scents & Smells Can Tell A Story

Effervescent fragrances of pines, cedar of Lebanon, Mediterranean cypress, kermes oak, chestnuts suffuses the atmosphere with their own delicate undertones of mystery and history, communicate to the visitor or locals in a language which the mind picks up readily with the olfactory fields of awareness. Spicy magnolia like smell of poplars; scented blossoms of apricots, with their subtle and lingering whispery essences delights and awaken the senses; to the poignancy of these areas so portent with history and culture. These also signals the blossoming seasons to any visitor within this coastal part of Syria. Pervasive occurrences of grapevines carpeting and contouring the hills right to their summits with their sprawling and entangling branches, the poignant odor of lemons and the scent of Mediterranean scrubs often envelopes and permeates the environment in gradients of increasing crescendos when the Earth awakens to its unfolding exuberant flowering phase and the plants enter their various birthing and continuity processes. Each year, the Earth seems to come alive with variegated visual and olfactory schematics that interweave with the multiple human activities, distinctively marking the seasonal phases of each year. Sometimes the smell of cotton and the whiff of wine making or tobacco processing would also briefly perfuse the olfactory awareness with an evanescent demeanour, giving a colourful vibrant characteristic of this coastal city with multiple historicities of deep time and the weightiness of different cultural experiences.

The essences of citrous fruits, the fragrance of tangerines just beginning to reach their prime, the smell of olives equally fills the atmosphere and denotes each phase and time of the year when agricultural activities takes precedences over every other aspect of daily life. Each of these fragrances seemingly inserting themselves into multilayered heady concoctions that interlaces with the smell of the sea. Sometimes and on some days these smells with any given associative combination of visual imageries of the landscape can be a catalytic conduit which can evoke fleeting impressions and memories of deep time and different cultural eras along this coastal areas of the land.

Perhaps it is this it’s indescribable beauties that have been attracting different invaders and incursions over the centuries to its shores. It is within this city that Ghaith, a young immigrant currently now living in Berlin has known since his childhood.
Latakia, where Ghaith grew up is a port city on the coast of Syria. In his own words, a beautiful city where the flow of life seemed normal, always easy going and a place where everything was plentiful, cheap and easy to get just before the outbreak of the Syrian war that has been ravaging the country since 2011.
In this first episode of Tell Us Your Story, Ghaith who is from the city of Latakia, narrates the difficult, excruciating and extraordinary immigration pathway that would first take them to Lebanon on a wild goose chase, where a portion of the family savings would be lost to an unscrupulous and dubious smuggler who had given a false promise to take the family to Sweden out of Syria. The family will return back to Syria after this failed attempt and again undertake another perilous but final journey all the way to Greece via Turkey which will eventually lead them to Germany where the family is currently settled since 2016.

Language: German.
Listening Time: 32:36 mins.
Interview: Djorna Biswas in Conversation with Ghaith
Music: Tanka Fonta

Featured image on top page: Wadi al-Kandel beach, near Latakia: By Victor.ibrahiem.photographe – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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About The Author

Tanka Fonta

Author & composer, visual artist & performer, multi-instrumentalist, poet, researcher & independent scholar.