Dearborn, through our sense of smell.
Walking through Dearborn, it’s not at all what I expected yet somehow also exactly what I expected.
Parts of it feel very familiar; when I close my eyes, I can smell parts of home and I (can) hear Arabic, in its many forms.
It’s definitely a juxtaposition, you have all these elements of the Arab world yet visually it is suburban America. It’s interesting and commendable that such a large, diverse, community has created a life here, so far away from home.
Detroit proper, smells like a combination of Cairo and New York in the summer, to me.
Diesel, rubber, smoke! Dearborn has many of the same elements, but I also smell grilled meat, spices, coffee, humidity, and faint perfume.
I managed to work on a glossary of herbs, plants, and flowers native to South West Asia and North Africa, I was surprised to find materials I never knew were important cultural symbols as well (like Cyclamen in Lebanon, for example).
Hosting the smell-memory workshop was a treat because I got to hear people's impressions and memories of home. The smell walks were a little different, in that, they created an atmosphere where most would have to pay attention to their nose a lot more. While the walks were not as far-reaching as I hoped, there were many surprising scent moments along the way, who knew there were so many herbs planted around City Hall Park?!
It’s in these moments, that I am thankful for our sense of smell, our sense of wonder, and community.