No daffodils this close to the desert Ajar by L’Orientialiste Marrakech


The almond blossom had already done. 

Its psychedelic storm clouds of magenta and ‘just married’ white a park floor’s worth of real confetti before February was even finished. 

Here and there a rose, peaking too soon or staying on too late, hung around, pink and out of place. In a month, maybe less, rains willing, Inshallah, they would be a profusion. Just not yet. Not just yet. Inshallah.

In the smartest of the city gardens, the one that closed at sunset, had cyber hotspots for switched on kids to get their wifi fix and was a favourite for courting couples, out beyond the orange trees, towards the pise walls, he walked alone.

Gentle Spring sunshine warmed the millennium old mud ramparts and dust rose from the path to lap at the hems of the coral-hued fortifications. From the other side, the noise and dirt of traffic, the smell of animals, soot and rain-starved storm drains rose. These parapets never kept the air clean and quiet nor one set of citizens safe from the next marauding crowd.

What wall ever did?


She had said ‘Meet me in a garden. Meet me on St David’s Day.’ 

After an hour, he concluded, it couldn’t be that garden. Not the place where they had shared picnics of dates and orange blossom cakes washed down with hibiscus tea from a tin flask they’d picked up from a bric a brac in the ville nouvelle.

St David’s Day. St David’s Day. Where in this city of jacarandas and figs, of charcoal and dried chameleons, of mint tea and high meat & dried fruit tagines, where were there daffodils?

Of course, there are no narcissus this close to the desert, their form, their shape, their modestly bowed and bonneted heads, all speak of temperance and temperate climes, of sea breezed Mediterranean or frosted European firsts of March, not dust dry Morocco, with its chill nights and winds that promise but never deliver rain.

Never has a flower been so badly defamed by a name. Narcissus. This chaste corolla called after intoxication and vanity.

Yellow. Daffodil yellow. Blue. Majorelle blue.

He hissed a passing p’tit taxi and rode it to the garden that Yves Saint Laurent saved from oblivion. The jardin, once on the edge of town, where one hundred years before the painter Jacques Majorelle had sought a new sort of blue, inspired by the same sunlight that, fifty years afterwards, gave Churchill peace from the dogs of war, and later still his own black dogs. The black dogs that chased Saint Laurent here from Paris, bottle and pen and cutting scissors in hand.

Drunk and delirious he had run through the muddled alleys of the medina at night, howling like an animal.

He remembered. Daffodil yellow pots. Pots full of succulents and cacti.


Beyond the cactus garden, the house of blue good enough to dive into, the fountain and the parterres, he arrives at the square pond.

There on the pontoon, he sees her in silhouette.

She gazes at the water, staring, not at her own reflection, but instead the towering sight of palm trees turned upside down in this aqueous mirror, their fronds free, swimming in cerulean skies and impenetrable golden algae from below.

He approaches.In the heat the scent rises from her, she smells of herself and … the English word eludes him, he’s become so accustomed to French and Arabic after all.. of tagetes… she smells of French marigolds.

He reaches out to touch her right shoulder, then falters, feeling the questions he aches to ask like a tremor in is outstretched arm:

Where has she been? Why has she been away? Why was there never any word?

But he know no answer will come.

He waits a moment, his heart, seconds ago skipping, now slows. His breath slackens, then hers too, he hears it, matches it. Soon they breathe as one.

A gentle prolongation: inhalation and expiration.

Outside, the noise and dirt of traffic, the smell of animals, soot and rain-starved storm drains rises. Here, all is kept at bay, for now, by the drawing in and letting out of air and the scent of French marigolds. 


On an unassuming but chic street in the Gueliz of Marrakech is L’Orientaliste, a miscellany of colonial era high class furniture and decorative arts. Outsized coffee tables and deco armchairs, Lalique-style lamps and angular decanters all vie for the eye with full sized posters of 20s cruise lines and train companies.

Just by the door is an even greater treat, for here is to be found the company’s own scented collection. Judging by their prominent position perfumed candles and room sprays must be the biggest sellers and these can be found on line, even occasionally in stores in France.

To the Dandy’s nose, however, it is the numerous eau de parfums, more than twenty in total, that are most intriguing items: providing a tantalizing glimpse, or waft, of what a certain type of Marakchi might be wearing about their person. Those who assume that all middle Eastern perfumery is a muchness of heavy oud and wood attars, will be shocked and perhaps dismayed by this array, more diverse, playful and piccolo than cliche.

Rose, orange blossom, mint, orange, sweet spices, bright flowers and sparing combinations of musk, patchouli, amber and sandalwood in the base are the order of the day – though animalics do shine through rather organically now and then.


The splendidly named ‘Ajar’, is a heavily floral perfume with great presence. It is a dressed up and made up fragrance, an androgynously beautiful woman somewhat incongruously done to the nines but with the cheek bones and slim ankles to take all the gilding.

The opening note is, in all honesty, a rather intentionally mismatched affair, one that I find curiously appealing, but can easily imagine might put many off. There is a faint tang ‘Tizer’ or ‘Vimto’, peculiarly British soft drinks of yesteryear. Somewhat obscure points of reference, ‘mixed fruit beverage’ doesn’t capture the decidedly ‘out of time’ sensation of these aromas – they are not the soul destroying, corn starch laden, tooth collapsing, cesspits one finds in a can of Coca Cola or Dr Pepper, but something more optimistic and innocent. Alone this smell would be nostalgic, momentarily amusing, but, frankly unwearable.

Here, the perfumer, unnamed and French – the project was a collaboration with an old house in Grasse – has married this playful pop with an earthy and green heavyweight punch of floral tagetes, that is scented marigolds. The combination is invigorating, slightly disorientating and, well, plain perfect unusual.

The effect is a couture version of an over enthusiastic shop assistant dressing a confectioners or rahat lokum merchant with contents of a particularly well tended flower garden at the height of its perfume. Eccentric, and one can imagine rather fashionably hectic.

Over time a tense game of two and fro emerges, a state I rather enjoy when in the right frame of mind. At times we drift towards a rose tinted Turkish delight, then the base of light amber and a slightly sweaty musk will reappear with the earthier elements of the florals, rather like the unheralded entrance of an overheated and under-dressed gardener burling in, wheelbarrow and all.

Finally, and quite unexpectedly, the late drydown gets first sweet, a return to the nostalgic sips and slurps of childhood, before a rather more sophisticatedly high musk and gently floral conclusion reigns.

Projection is good and the staying power quite exceptional at around 10-12 hours. I should also mention that the perfume is a delicious burnt honey colour, the kind scent used to be, and one I thoroughly approve of. Whilst talking of how scent used to be, the rather splendid owner of L’Orientaliste has commented on her sadness at having to remove her wares from sale in Europe because of ‘regulations’…

Tilda Swinton

‘Ajar’ is a collision of sweetness and earthiness, propriety and glamour on the one hand, childish indulgence on the other. There is more than a little of Morocco here, the cuisine is based on the cohabitation of sweet and meat, the air is filled with flowers and smoke and excrement, the cities are dusty but punctuated with remarkable, often hidden, walled gardens of incredible profusion.

There is another aesthetic at work too, that of the defiantly eccentric: the placing of ‘ought not too’s together, forgetting that ‘blues and greens should never be seen’ in the case that they ‘might do’.

No one embodies this sentiment more than the actress, model, artist, and muse Tilda Swinton, and though there may already be a perfume that claims she likes it, The Dandy would bet that she would love this. 

A bientot. 

The Perfumed Dandy

The Perfumed Dandy




Filed under Uncategorized

27 responses to “No daffodils this close to the desert Ajar by L’Orientialiste Marrakech

  1. “Where has she been? Why has she been away? Why was there never any word?” 😉

    Welcome back!

  2. I’ve missed you and your posts!



  4. Lilybelle

    It’s so good to see you again, dear Dandy! ♡ I’ve missed you. 🙂 I can’t imagine what this fragrance smells like. The strangeness of tagetes sounds appealing.

    Sant Hapus Dydd Sant!

    • Dearest Lily
      It was indeed a very happy Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant.
      It is a hard fragrance to imagine this one, think Lauren’s Safari, if you know it, ruffled with a sophisticated southern fruit punch sans booze and a stray wet cat lurking somewhere.
      But it’s much more, rounded, sweeter and … as you can tell… elusive.. than that.
      So lovely to be back.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Mary E.

    So wonderful to hear from you & about Ajar Marrkech L’Orientaliste! Happy March1st.

    • Dearest Mary
      Thank you, and wonderful to hear from you too – it’s rather like a reunion here. Or as if I’d stepped out of a party for a moment to take the night air, and returned to find you all still happily gossiping and sipping sidecars.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Dearest Mr Dandy,

    Utterly overjoyed to see you back on the fragrant firmament. Your prose is unique and transporting as ever. I always feel like I have been immersed in a small but great novella full of image and scent when I read your posts. Please stick around. We cannot be abandoned twice. We shan’t recover.

    Your happy friend

  7. So utterly thrilled to see you’re back, Dandy – you have been most sorely missed! And if Ajar is anything like your most evocative prose, it must be investigated! Signed, a massive Tilda (& Jim Jarmusch!) fan… 😉

  8. Mary

    At last! How long has it been! What a lovely piece.

  9. salmack1

    I’m fairly swooning with delight that you are back! I have missed you so much and have been mightily worried about you. And what a wonderfully evocative review to herald your return. I need no answer as to why you have been away: it is enough that you are back and how apropos on St David’s Day.

  10. rosestrang

    I echo everyone here, it’s a joy to see you back Sir Dandy and a pleasure to read as always!

    I used to like Vimto as a kid, but can’t imagine it, and tagetes, in a eprfume, it does sound intriguing enough for the amazing Tilda Swinton.

    I hope you’ve been having a wonderful year doing whatever Dandies do!

    • Dearest Rose
      How pleased to see you here – how quickly everyone reassembles. The beauty of social media when it is social as it should be!
      Vimto and tagetes in a perfume is indeed an unusual combination, with a slightly human musk underneath it’s even more so. The whole thing is, honestly, quite bonkers, but in a good way.
      The last year? Travelling – the photographs (excepting that of the divine Tilda) are my own, and being far too involved with renaissance wizards for my own good.
      Both themes that I’m sure I’ll touch upon as I venture into the back catalogue of perfumes I’ve been testing throughout.
      Looking very much forward to talking more.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  11. rosestrang

    Beautiful photos too I forgot to say! I just read your reply to Lilybelle above and I was actually wondering if this one might be reminsicent of Lauren’s Safari, which I had a miniature of back in the 80s I remember. I found it quite sweet then, but very warm and it did remind me of sun warmed grass. So, a glass of chilled Vimto while sitting in the African Savanah with a nearby lion lurking around, not an everyday experience!

    • Dearest Rose
      Safari. Yes, but with Vimto cocktails and a more muscular kick to the florals.
      I don’t know marigolds well enough to know if they’re ever inclined to the indolic, but there are moments when this sways that way. So yes, indeed, it’s interesting if nothing else.
      The bulk of the range was formulated back in 1997, and has remained mercifully unchanged ever since. They go scampering round the store opening old draws of old bureaux that look as though they belong in a 1930s airline office to find a bottle of the scent you search. Splendidly haphazard.
      Why aren’t there more shops like that – oh, and they come in at about £25 for 100ml, plus airfare, of course.

      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s