THE TUNISIAN MACHMOUM
The intoxicating smell of the Machmoum, made from the flower “Fell,” and theArabian Jasmine tree, unique to Tunisia, is the scent that Tunisians believe, “Feeds The Feelings!”
For centuries, Jasmine in the East, was considered as the symbol of love and temptation of women.
In India, Kama, the God of Love, reached its victims by arrows upon which he attached Jasmine flowers.
According to legend, Queen Cleopatra went to meet the Roman general Marcus Antonius in a ship whose sails were coated with essence of Jasmine!
Jasmine was introduced to Hammamet in the 7th century by Arab conquerors and is now an emblem of the town, said to symbolise hospitality and joie de vivre!
According to the Regional Commission for Agricultural Development (CRDA), Hammamet has more than 200,000 Jasmine plants for some 150,000 inhabitants, the highest in the world!
Even though its lifespan is very short, just 24 hours, exports of the flower still continue to flourish, transported regularly on flights to Paris!
To get one kilogram of Jasmine absolute essence, about seven million flowers need to be collected, therefore, Jasmine is often reserved for luxury perfumes.
The perfume “Joy," popular for 30 years, was made from Jasmine mixed with white rose petals!
It is impossible to be in Tunisia in the summer without spotting the Jasmine arrangers, found abundantly in different towns and villages! Whole families, men, women and children alike are kept busy throughout the entire summer picking the flowers to assemble and meticulously, produce Machmoums (bouquets) and necklaces, each more beautiful than the other!
Sold on the beaches, in cafes, or even at road junctions, and produced specifically for the Tunisian bride and groom on their wedding day, many of the vendors are often young boys anxious for extra pocket money and usually dressed traditionally with a bouquet of Jasmine pinned between the top of the ear and head. They carry and exhibit their wares in a wicker basket placed on their head or carried under their arm.
To celebrate this flower, the city of Radés, near to Tunis, devoted a festival for 15 years.
In 2007,Ferjeni Alaghrbi prepared a giant bouquet, which was recorded in the Guiness Book of Records! It took a whole day to prepare for a giant "Machmoum" and the cost of production was estimated to be about 200 dinars!
The giant Machmoum consisted of 500 small Machmoums needing 6 kg of Jasmine or the equivalent of 23,040 flowers!