Noor Sallam 2 Scented Narratives

  • Tauira / Student
    Noor Sallam
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Ghalia El Srakbi
  • School
    American University in Cairo

“Scented Narratives” is a new way of experiencing history through smell. This project tackles three different Ancient Egyptian narratives through smell by attempting to recreate specific smells of certain moments in Ancient Egypt to reenact what it smelled like back then. By doing so we get to relive a moment that took place thousands of years ago by taking a whiff of the smells that supposedly existed back then. The first narrative is titled Sennufer’s Garden, the second narrative is titled Tutankhamun’s Funeral and the third narrative is titled Tutankhamun’s funeral. Each was studied thoroughly in terms of smell to produce this project which provides a separate set for each of the narratives containing bottles shaped like the perfume vessels of Ancient Egypt containing the alleged smells that were supposedly present during that time varying from specific flowers, resins, plants, trees, leaves, fruits, foods, textiles, woods, ponds and other components. The scents were produced and mixed especially for this project to bring it even closer to reality.

Understanding smellscapes and olfactory landscapes of a time, city, or space uncovers many layers and aspects of a culture that are manifesting itself in smell. Smellscapes reveal aspects of a culture’s urban planning, social hierarchy, culinary practices, plant cultivation, animal husbandry, craftsmanship, values, hygiene, trade relations, traditions and customs, religious beliefs, and the nature of courtships. However, smells are rarely mentioned or acknowledged in history although historically, smells/scents have been rather quite significant especially in Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations in human history to document and judge smells. The written sources that were left behind by the ancient Egyptians exhibit that they lived in a rich olfactory world. Olfaction like the rest of the sensory perceptions and experiences is not only a means of exploring and comprehending physical marvels, but is also a path for the spread, communication and transmission of cultural values. Through understanding the smells of Ancient Egypt presented by this project’s “Scented Narratives”, we can uncover new layers about the way ancient Egyptians led their lives.