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Rihet Lebled

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Close your eyes and allow me to take you on a stroll along a Tunisian street. There will be a mild wind, a golden sky, a narrow alleyway lined with vibrant green trees and garnished with exquisite, delicate white small stars. You can certainly smell the heady, seductive scent of the Jasmine bloom while reading. 

Jasmine, according to some, has a floral aroma that is musky and bitter. Others believe it is too sweet and passionate. Still others believe it is too wild and rich. But I take my grandfather at his word when he exhales deeply through his Mashmoum and adds, « Rihet Lebled ». And an old man who spent nearly his entire life away from his country will always be more accurate and genuine in describing the aroma of this flower than you will ever be.

Every morning, he uses his shaky hands to carefully tear-off the selected buds from our small garden jasmine tree, place each one on a stalk of Halfa grass, and then gathers a group of them together to form the bouquet.

Later on, he proudly places it behind his ear; occasionally, he graciously gives it to me. It is also made into a chic necklace by local artisans, which women wear tastefully before their daily evening strolls in the summer.

According to the legend, the God of Love, Kama, sent his arrows bearing jasmine flowers to his victims, Legend has it that Cleopatra traveled to see the Roman general Marcus Antonius in a ship with sails adorned with jasmine essence. And according to history, jasmine traveled across oceans and arrived in the pockets of Andalusians from Spain to bloom in Tunisia.

A title for a never-ending love story might be « Jasmine and Tunisia », because we respect this flower’s enduring powers, you can smell it during our celebrations and weddings. We greet strangers with their blossoms and bid farewell to summer with their flowers. We adorn our homes with their hues and sometimes brew tea with their petals. We start our summer days with their purity and end our evenings with their oxidized aroma.

We give it to our loved ones and it guides us home while also reminding us of happy memories, innocent childhood times, and adulthood regrets. It also evokes memories of « Rihet Lebled », and makes us wonder, should we put the jasmine seeds in our pockets when we leave this country, or plant it here, care for them and wait until they bloom…hopefully…

Written By : Nada Arfaoui.

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À vos plumes

To Love

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When I first saw love, I knew she was so beautiful

She made me smile and her presence made school wonderful

Love walked me home everyday 

And love said hi to me in the hallway

She sang to her friends incredibly good

And I tried to mimic that. I wished I could

 

Love was a walking sunshine

Love made not loving her a crime

She would draw adorable doodles

She would sit with me at lunch and buy me noodles

Love was lovable

Love was adorable

With love I had no conflict

Love was incredibly perfect

 

But love, love was not perfect

 

When I got to know love, I found that she wasn’t as poetic as I thought

She would curse, yell and use slang

She would miss a note every time she sang

Love would not learn when she’s taught

And I was scared from her waving red flag

 

Love was not cheerful all the time

Love would mix coke with lime

Love would drink from the bottle 

Love confuses Plato and Aristotle

 

She was moody, angry and constantly bored

She was ill-tempered and cold

She would not listen when told

That I could not find her favorite candy

All the stack was sold

And love would yell and scold

 

But love cried

Love constantly tried 

To show me that she loved me

To say that I’m her home and she’s but a refugee

 

And I wish I listened 

 

Love finally left

But her memories I kept

Her shining eyes and euphonious voice

Her presence that would rejoice

And I wish I listened

 

Love said she needed her own space

But her memories still I trace

Love said she was tired of trying 

Of constantly fighting and crying 

And I wish I listened

 

Love got that degree and she’s proud

I still remember her laugh that is loud

Love moved to another city

Love left me live in self-pity

And I wish I listened

 

I wish I knew that love was not perfect

But she was beautiful, genuine and kind

I should have loved her and not listen to my mind

Love tried her best 

Love had a fire burning her chest

Love was perfect the way she was

And I was too blind to see it because

I thought love stays forever

But love had to cry and suffer

 

When I held love I said this is the first of millions

When I hugged love and she was pretty

I let her go easily 

And we didn’t even pass thirty

 

I miss love. I wish I could tell her one last time

« I love you and thank you

For loving what I had 

And cherishing what I lack,

But now that you’re gone

Can I please have myself back? »

 

Written By : Montassar Hizi.

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