Surprisingly, the theme of Egypt in modern perfumery is an uncultivated field, almost virgin land. The regional neighbor, Morocco, is much more fortunate with marketing: he has his own brand ambassador - Serge Lutens, who glorified his beloved country in a dozen perfumery compositions (see Chergui - dry, hot and dusty smell of sirocco blowing from the Sahara, Ambre Sultan - herbaceous amber from a bazaar in Marrakech, Bois Oriental - a dedication to Atlas cedar, and so on). On the site The Perfumed Court, which sells perfumes on tap, I constantly order thematic selections of "castings" - some "Travel to China", which smells of green tea and osmanthus, or to Russia (tea, vodka, champagne, repeat), or in the same Morocco.
Bois Oriental, Ambre Sultan, Chergui, Serge Lutens © sergelutens.com
But Egypt is not offered to me, because there is not much to collect from. At the same time, judging by the box office receipts of all "Mumiyas", we are still fascinated by its objective world: hieroglyphs, scarabs, donkey milk baths that Cleopatra took, and a tiny embalmed cat in the Pushkin Museum - even school history lessons did not erase curiosity about all of the above.
Interest in Egypt is periodically heightened. This happened at the beginning of the 19th century, immediately after Napoleon's Egyptian campaign. And again after eighty years: in the vicinity of Luxor, they found a magnificent temple of Queen Hatshepsut. And again - in 1922, when Howard Carter made the most significant discovery in the history of Egyptology, finding the intact tomb of Tutankhamun. The splash of "tutmania" (from the English Tut, Tut, as British journalists called the craze for everything Egyptian) in the 1920s was the most significant - perhaps because the intricate geometry of Ancient Egypt fit perfectly into Art Deco, the main style of the decade. Scarabs and papyrus flowers settled in the collections of the couturiers Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny, the so-called "Egyptian square" became the most fashionable haircut, and every second cinema, which was then built in the United States,resembled a palace complex of the New Kingdom era. On the tangent, Egyptomania also touched the fragrant world: Scarabée perfumes at home enjoyed some success.LT Piver and several inevitable "Nefertiti" and "Cleopatra" came out. But everyone who wanted to fall back to the roots went to Cairo, where the king of Egyptian perfumery Ahmed Soliman lived and worked. At the Khan al-Khalili bazaar, his store was the only one in which it was impossible to bargain - about this American and European readers were warned by numerous fashion magazines, baking, among other things, about the rules of good form. The Sahara Blossom, The Secret of the Desert, and The Queen of Egypt were to be bought without regard to price, like sables on Fifth Avenue.
Un Jardin sur le Nil, Hermès © Hermès Press Office
Wikipedia reports that the last time Egyptomania covered the world at the end of the last century, when a glass pyramid was installed in the courtyard of the Louvre. A very bold statement: it seems to me that even the song “Walk Like An Egyptian” raised a bigger wave in those same years. But it was in France - albeit twenty years later - that an event took place that could really launch the Egyptian trend, at least in perfumery. Jean-Claude Ellena, the first in-house perfumer in the history of Hermès, created Un Jardin sur le Nil, a scent dedicated to the Nile gardens of Aswan.
Former New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr wrote an entire book about how Ellena was taken to Egypt along with the entire management of Hermès - it was a truly important, iconic project for the house - and made to roam the islands in search of inspiration. Ellena, unfortunately, did not go the same way that Luthans would have chosen, had he conceived to make an "Egyptian" fragrance. Perfumer HermèsI could not put my hands up to the elbows in the burning spices of the Egyptian bazaars, dive headlong into armfuls of rough skins and breathe in the thousand-year-old Aswan dust: the company wanted a perfume manifesto - transparent, modern, as comfortable to wear as possible. But Egypt, all permeated with ancient tombs, like a lump of forest earth - with pale roots that did not see the sun, is different: uncomfortable, chthonic, impenetrable, like the powder of instant darkness from "Harry Potter". It cannot be said that the green and watery Un Jardin sur le Nil did not succeed at all: it, by the way, continues to make a good box office ten years later. But this is not Egypt.
It is believed that the first perfumers in history were the ancient Egyptian priests who mixed juice, fruit pulp, spices, tree resins and oils and made incense and aromatic ointments. Later, it was the Egyptians who took perfumery from the sphere of religious rituals to the sphere of personal hygiene and pleasure: Queen Hatshepsut, for example, loved myrrh so much that she sent a fleet of ships to Punt (modern Somalia) for her seedlings, which were later planted in her palace. On the frescoes, the heads of noble Egyptians are often crowned with small golden cones, probably made of wax or animal fat mixed with incense - during the holiday such a cone slowly melted, giving its owner a heavy, deep aroma.
Anubis, Papillon Artisan Perfumes © facebook.com/PapillonPerfumery
Only once did I find a fragrance that was clearly made with love for the black and oily Nile mud, ancient ashes and dark dog-headed deities - Anubis by the English niche brand Papillon Artisan Perfumes. But the small and proud Papillon is not Hermès and will never make waves. Perhaps a slight ripple on the surface of the Nile.>