Scent of a Woman [Archives:1998/09/Culture]

March 2 1998

Perfumed Garden
Going into one of them is like going into the Perfumed Garden of yore. They stock liquids of all colors in bottles of all shapes and sizes. As for the fragrances, they are out of this world. Most of them are imported from France, others from Italy, and a few from Germany. In this particular shop, ‘Arabic perfumes’ i.e., those made locally such as sandalwood are only occasionally stocked.

How Does a Yemeni Woman Choose Her Perfume?
It is a matter of taste and experience. Some women ask to try the perfume on their hands first. Most of them, however, know the type they want because they have tried it before. Few women, on the other hand, trust the salesman’s taste, and allow him to choose a suitable perfume for them. But they often end up following their own intuition in choosing what is best for them.

For Young & Old
Young ladies in general prefer lighter, more refreshing perfumes. More mature women tend to go for the stronger, more attention-drawing fragrance. Most of the older and more conservative ladies buy the traditional locally made natural scents such as sandalwood, incense, etc. Tribeswomen go for lighter perfumes than their urban counterparts.

Price is a strong deciding factor in the type of perfume a woman would buy. A woman may become enamored with a particular perfume she would get a waft of from one of her more well-heeled friends. She would inquire as to its name and make, and immediately go to the nearest stockist.
The answer could be a four- or even a five-figure number (in Yemeni riyals, that is, no USD). Disappointment! Consternation!! Sadness!!! Those with limited incomes can only hope to get imitation eau de toilette, made in some sweatshop in the Far East.
Members of the velvet society can very easily buy top-of-the-range perfumes costing YR 8,000 to YR 10,000. However, being expensive doesn’t necessarily mean good. Sometimes, one really buys the brand name on the bottle, not the stuff inside.

Scent in the Morning, Another for the Night
Yemeni women are exceptionally adept at choosing the right perfume for the right occasion. The “quieter,” purer and more refreshing perfume is used in the morning, while, the “heavy” and stronger ones are worn on social evening occasions. In addition to the stronger scent, Yemeni women use incense, which is made to permeate their clothes in a tradition going back to the fabled Queen Bilquis of Sheba.

Flower Power
The majority of Yemeni women prefer the more natural perfumes that are extracted from “folle” (Arabic jasmine) or the ordinary jasmine. Sandalwood-based scent is another favorite for Yemeni women.

Spray or Splash?
Most Yemeni women prefer perfumes that come in an aerosol since the atomizer allows the scent to permeate through the clothes making the whole body radiate with attractive fragrance. The splash variety tends to become concentrated on one area.
Does Size Matter?
Many women prefer the smaller more delicate perfume containers because they like to finish it quickly and buy a different one. Those who don’t like to change buy the bigger perfume bottles as they provide better value for money.

By: Khayriya Al-Shabeebi,
Yemen Times