Category: Travel

Scent of a season

Droplets of rain
Droplets of rain

I wake up this morning in a bed that isn’t mine. I look around and everything seems rather unfamiliar. Everything, save one distinct fragrance—that of the rain-kissed earth. I feel confused, yet at peace. I am at home, yet far from home. Now, it slowly starts to come together. A 10-hour train journey the night before brought me to Goa. I’ve left the balmy city of Mumbai long behind for the verdant Southern state, albeit just for a week.

Feeling light and bright against the raging grey sea
Feeling light and bright against the raging grey sea

Through the window of my villa I see the rain kiss the red soil outside. Further in the distance, the sea is a roaring grey entity, its waves rising and falling in a manner that seems urgent—almost as if they are calling out to me.

I don’t have an agenda to follow now that I’m here. Or maybe I do. For now, the bed-to-balcony walk seems like the only route I’d like to take. Instead, I go a bit further. I feel the drops of rain gentle fall upon my skin as I stand on the moist soil. Today is a special day.

I am a monsoon baby. I was born in the month of July. I came into this world many years ago today, the 21st day of July. It might be the reason why I love the monsoons much more than any of the other seasons. But then again, who doesn’t love weather like this.

Endless cups of tea are always in order when the weather’s so fine. A book to read or my notebook to write makes for great company. The air is so much cooler at this time of the year. The awfully hot and seemingly never-ending summer that just went by has blurred into the distant past. Everyone looks much happier than they were a few months ago. That’s what the turn of the season can do.

Most fascinating about the rainy season is the fresh and natural scent that’s hard to ignore. That powerfully evocative fragrance of freshly rain-kissed earth is like no other. It fills the land with a fresh and lush feel that no Indian season could ever bring.

I recently read up about a phenomenon, also known as petrichor. In a bid to study the science behind the rain’s aroma in 1964, a pair of scientists coined the term petrichor by combining the Greek words petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of the gods).

An apt term, indeed. But why does the earth exude such a strong, distinct smell that’s unlike anything else? The study determined that one of the main causes of this distinctive smell is the blend of oils secreted by a number of plants during the hot, dry season. As soon as it starts to rain, compounds from the oils start interacting with each other and get released into the air.

I can’t help but be thankful for this natural phenomenon. It’s such a pleasant aroma, one that can only be associated with the rains. The scent of fresh earth is comforting and nostalgic. Childhood memories surface; one feels carefree and light all over again.

Nothing quite like the smell of rain
Nothing quite like the smell of rain

Now, if I had the chance to create my own fragrance for a perfume, I would try to recreate the smell of rain. I’ve always loved natural-smelling perfumes. For the most part of my life I’ve used just a single perfume — Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea.

If there had to be another perfume or scent that I might want to use on myself or even as a pillow or air spray, it would most definitely be one that smells of the rain and the wet mud.

This post is my entry for the Godrej aer Inspire A Fragrance contest on Indiblogger.com, in which winning entries will help inspire Godrej to create new fragrance based on the participant’s entries. It’s a fantastic crowd-inspired initiative that allows the blogger to become a part of their think-tank. Let’s hope they are inspired by my love for the fresh smell of a rainy day.

More than just souks and sand

I often find myself looking through photos of destinations on my bucket list. Like the stunning cliff-town of Santorini, the temple city of Macchu Picchu in Peru, North Canada for a glimpse of the extraordinary Northern Lights, Sri Lanka for endless cups of tea on a paradisiacal island, Turkey for its grand mosques and open-air markets—the list is endless. While these places feature on most people’s bucket lists, there are others that don’t usually find their way to such lists. One of these places that I recently discovered is Oman. Here I was imagining Oman to solely be a land of deserts and souks, dates and spices. But this state in Southwest Asia is so much more than that. Think beaches and forts, castles and nature in all its glory. Yes, tourism in Oman is indeed booming, and there couldn’t be a better time than now to visit it.

I first heard about it from a friend who had visited Oman last year. She came back with stories of unspoiled coastlines, dolphin watching, cities with an old world charm and bustling markets. I started looking up imagery and blog posts of this unlikely travel destination only to be surprised at the number of tourists it welcomes every year. Who would have thought really!

Something that really piqued my interest in Oman was its natural beauty, and when I do visit, I definitely don’t want to miss the Bandar Khayran Reserve, given my love for nature and wildlife holidays.

In Oman, it seems like journeys are as interesting as the destination. Even though the reserve is a 40-minute boat ride away from the heart of Muscat, you won’t be bored during the commute, for you’ll be marvelling at the rocky mountainous landscape, the white-washed houses that overlook the deep blue as well as architectural points of interest. And, of course, the friendly dolphin pods swimming alongside your boat!

When you actually reach your destination— Bandar Al Khayran waters— you’ll have plenty to indulge in. Snorkelling and scuba diving reveal a new world of diverse species of underwater life including coral reefs and colourful fish. Oman seems to rank high on the eco-tourism map and it definitely seems like my kind of place, more so, because of the Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve.

Thousands of sea turtles migrate annually from other shores to lay their eggs on Oman’s shoreline. I hope to visit between July and October, as this is the peak time for turtle watching. Interestingly, Oman’s waters play home to five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles! Whales also frequent Oman’s shores particularly in A’Sharqiyah South Governate, Dhofar Governate and Al Wasta Governate, albeit at irregular intervals. Still, I’m definitely not going to give this a miss! If it’s your lucky day you might get to see one or two of these gigantic creatures of the ocean.

Besides spending time in the midst of nature, I also like to delve into the region’s history and culture. Oman is an ancient land that’s rich in history. The relics of innumerable forts and watchtowers are evidence of its well-preserved culture. Some forts like Nizwa Fort have been restored with impeccable care and are worth a visit, as is the Jabreen Caste that dates back to 1670. The palace’s frescoed ceilings carry Islamic-era inscriptions and intricate paintings. Strolling through the palace’s many rooms is sure to take you back in time.

I’m especially excited to see the Sun and Moon room, which was used by the Immam as a room for meetings and discussions. More intriguing is the fact that the ceiling of the Sun and Moon room is adorned with Islamic-style calligraphy. The room has 14 windows—seven are located near the ceiling and the remaining seven are at the bottom of the room—that keep the atmosphere cool throughout the year. This ‘natural’ cooling mechanism was devised to allow cool air to enter from the lower windows and to expel warm air from the upper ones.

I believe that the best way to soak in a region’s culture is to see it through the eyes of a local. This might be possible if one were to visit Oman’s many colourful souks that sell everything from incense and spices, to traditional textiles and local jewellery. Alongside Oman’s charming culture is luxury in all its forms—chic hotels, swanky malls, yachting and fantastic restaurants. Beauty has an address and from the looks of it, it can be found in Oman. Here’s where you’ll get all the information you need: http://www.omantourism.gov.om