Human Flower Project

In Yemen

Bright jasmine supplants traditional basil in contemporary Yemen.

imageWith jasmine garlands

in Yemen

Photo: Yemen Times

According to an intriguing story by Mohammed Al-Jabri, Sana’a, Yemen’s old city, had no flower shops until the 1990s. One opened, and though “prices were very low,” the florist attracted only a few foreigners. In more recent years, flower buying and giving have caught on here. Al-Jabri writes, “New generations now cultivate romantic outlook.” Those six words could mean many things.

Perhaps that women have more buying power—since we learn that in Yemen as in much of the rest of the world “females are more interested in buying flowers than males.” Maybe Yemen is becoming more of a commodity culture—where you’re known by all you acquire and show. Or maybe ease of transport just makes more flowers available now. We’re eager to hear how readers interpret or, better, have experienced the change.

imageA flower vendor in Yemen

Photo: Long Passages

Al-Jabri notes that in the past, basil plants, not cut-flowers, were symbolically charged. Known as “Raihan,” this aromatic and savory herb was worn at weddings, leaves draped over the ears. The herb traditionally was passed among those faithful “who attend the Friday prayer.” Antidote for post-partum blues, vases of basil would be brought to a woman after childbirth: “That makes her room a special scene as other women visit her.”

Rather than the spicy greenery of basil, today’s Yemenites seem to prefer bright blossoms and the heavy sweetness of jasmine. Street vendors sell jasmine garlands along with khat (a narcotic pinch between cheek and gum). At commencement exercises, it’s become customary to shower the graduates with jasmine petals, much lovelier than a flurry of mortar boards.

As Yemen undergoes contortions along societal lines, it makes sense that its floral behaviors would be changing too. Call it postmodernity or “romantic outlook.”

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 12/12 at 12:28 PM


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