My classmate Hammed came back from a two-week trip to Syria bearing candy as pasalubong. As we discussed the narratives we were to write for our creative non-fiction class, he passed around chocolate-covered biscuits from confectioner Ghraoui.
The packaging is superb, tasteful and classy, reminding me of the Hermes brand.
The chocolate biscuits are wrapped in gold foil stamped in blue with the name of the brand in both English and Arabic. I peel back the thick foil and take a nibble. The chocolate is sweet, the biscuit crisp.
Each sweet is individually wrapped in plastic, bearing a silver sticker with the brand in Arabic. I wish I could read what it says. The confections glow with colors – the green of pistachios, pink of roses, white of nougat, brown of glazed sugar. It is hard to choose. They all look like jewels on black velvet.
Finally I decide on the sweet covered in crushed rose petals. First I admire it before I peel away the plastic wrapper. I lift it to my nostrils and inhale. It smells like dried leaves, more like tea than roses, but the colors of the flower are still vibrant.
With my mouth full of roses and honey and nuts, I glimpse a brief vision of Syria – camels and silks in many colors and tents fluttering in the desert wind. Blades of Damascus steel flash, held aloft by warriors astride noble Arabian steeds with flaring nostrils. Women in swathed in black, their eyes lined with dark kohl, offer glasses of tea.
I swallow the last morsel and the vision fades. Thank you, Hammed, for bringing us a taste of Syria.