Nortina’s Egyptian Travel Diaries (#AtoZChallenge): “F” is for Fragrance

As you may have already figured out, I’m not normally a travel blogger. Outside of my dump of photos from previous birthdays spent in Tulum, Mexico, and the Maldives in this post and my flash fiction series inspired by my cruise to Alaska, I very rarely talk about my travels on this blog.

As such, when I take photos and record videos, the sole purpose is to create memories, not content. And sometimes I don’t even think to do that because I’m too busy relishing the moment, enjoying the experience of being in a place where I once could only dream of being. So please excuse the occasional grainy cellphone photo or, in the case of this post, no photo at all.

You see, on this trip, we visited two perfume palaces—one in Cairo and the other in Aswan—and while I’m sure you would’ve loved for me to have at least filmed a reel of all the different fragrances on the shelves or taken a snapshot of the various style of perfume bottles and incense burners or even the lavish furniture we sat on in the private back room, where the sales agent explained to us the difference between perfume and essence.

But if I did that, would I really remember everything that was said? And would I remember enough to come home and tell you just how much those overpriced name-brand perfumes are ripping us off?

Well, ripping y’all off. I’m way too cheap to buy expensive perfume. That is, until Egypt. But here’s why…

Okay, I lied. I did take pictures…at home…after I unpacked my suitcase

Did you know that most perfumes are made with essence from Egypt? The essence is the oil extracted from the plant that gives the perfume its fragrance. Unfortunately, those same perfumes—the ones you’re paying $100 or more for a tiny 4-oz bottle—only have about 20% essence in them. The rest is alcohol, water, and other chemicals.

In short, you’re paying for the name. Chanel. Dior. Ralph Laren. Yves Saint Laurent. Etc.

In fact, the sales agent gave us a challenge. “Name a perfume. I promise you we have the essence.”

Brother, who knows his designer cologne just as well as he knows his gold, happily accepted.

“Chanel No. 19.”

“Got it.”

“Dior Sauvage.”

“Got it.”

“Bleu De Chanel.”

“Got it.”

What we should’ve asked was “What don’t you have?”

At one point, they brought a bottle out, put a few drops on Brother’s wrist, and he sniffed out the name brand like Regine in the Cleopatra costume summarizing a complete profile of the woman Scooter was allegedly cheating on Khadijah with from one sniff of a random bottle of perfume found in his bathroom in the Halloween episode of Living Single.

From Living Single, S2Ep8, “Trick or Trust”

Also, how ironic is it that she’s dressed as Cleopatra?

So armed with this knowledge, of course we wanted to buy the essence. For obvious reasons:

  1. It is 100% pure essence and not watered down.
  2. It doesn’t expire or evaporate, and it doesn’t smell like alcohol (which unfortunately is all we can smell now whenever we’re near regular perfume—no wonder Mom is constantly sneezing).
  3. They had great bundle deals, and everything was the same price—just pick your bottle size and pick your essence.

As I said in “Buyer’s Remorse,” Mom and I cleared the shelves. But while Brother was being his usual bougie self and bought the essences the perfumes back home are made of, Mom and I, desiring to smell unique in America, bought what can only be purchased in Egypt.

  • Lotus and Papyrus, which are both symbols of ancient Egyptian royalty.
  • Secret of the Desert, an alleged aphrodisiac for men. Ladies, put this on, and your man will be at your every beck and call. They recommend you only wear it after midnight because things could get…well…er…um…physical. 😉

We also purchased several oils for aromatherapy, including:

  • Eucalyptus, which is great for clearing a nasty cough (in fact, Vick’s VapoRub is made from eucalyptus). Brother definitely needed it the last few days of our trip, as he picked up a cough that was making me a little COVID nervous.
  • Musk for headaches. It would’ve been nice to have that on the journey to Egypt, with all those delayed flights.
  • Sandalwood for joint pain (because I’m getting old).
  • Royal Amber for stress and to clear my mind of troublesome thoughts since I haven’t gotten around to reading that book I mentioned in this post yet.
  • Milk of Queen Cleopatra to give you soft, smooth, blemish-free skin. Anyone dealing with acne scars will love this!

All of these we plan on incorporating into our daily self-care routines, as well as sharing them with friends because let’s be honest here, these are the “souvenirs” we really want from our traveling buddies, not those stupid $2 magnets and those “My girlfriend went all the way to Egypt and all she bought me was this stupid shirt” t-shirts.

Another interesting fact about these essences/perfumes: The instructions for how to make them can be found carved into the walls inside the Temple of Horus in Edfu. Unfortunately, I cannot read ancient Egyptian, so I haven’t the slightest clue what these hieroglyphics say, but apparently there are people who can, and, according to our tour guide, they come here regularly to get the recipes.

As for me, I bought enough essence to last me until my next trip to Egypt, which, judging from my bank account, probably won’t be anytime soon.


“A” is for Arrival
“B” is for Buyer’s Remorse
“C” is for Cruisin’ the River Nile
“D” is for Delays, Delays, Delays
“E” is for Empty Tombs

This April for the A to Z Challenge, I’m sharing my experience of traveling to Egypt last month. These posts likely won’t be in chronological order, depending on what memory each letter strikes up, but if you’d like to follow me on this journey, subscribe below.

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