Jerusalem is a city that can be experienced by smell alone. There is a special smell that pervades the whole country, but it is stronger here and enhanced by the city’s specialness.
In the center of the city, where I spend nearly all my time, I can identify where I am according to what my nose tells me. I get on my bike first thing in the morning and as I pedal towards the shuk, I pass the back-side of a hotel and am christened with the pungent raw-sweet aroma radiating from the dumpsters. Up the hill at the start of the shuk, there is a bakery that emits the blissful sugary-cinnamony-comfort-smell of fresh pastries. The shuk itself is filled with fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, meats raw and cooked, felafel, spices, and trash. I leave that behind as I speed down the hill and out of the center of the city, where the wind from the outer areas carries the smell of the day, or the hour, or the moment. I find myself passing two guys (presumably on their way to work) every morning, and I can smell their cologne from the road.
There are bushes with wonderfully fragrant flowers along my walk to work, across from the old monastary. And there is a restaurant at the bottom of the building I work in that smells amazing, although I’m told the food is actually quite gross.
It has started to rain. The fresh-sweetness weaves in and out of all these nasal experiences, making the pollution and trash less offensive and bringing out the nuances of the sweet smells of the bakeries and bits of greenery.
Have I mentioned that I love this city?