Beyond Sound & Scent in the Andalusian Garden

“Senses are essential to the human condition.”


Dr. D. Fairchild Ruggles’ lecture entitled “Sound & Scent in the Andalusian Garden” provided me with a newfound gap in my previous knowledge about Islamic palaces and garden complexes. Dr. Ruggles’ emphasis on Andalusian gardens came by way of an introduction to the ephemeral sensory experiences that we certainly cannot and will not ever know. The flowers from a bygone era have most definitely changed, and she continues, “so have our noses.”

After receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Art History one could imagine that I spent a considerable amount of time looking at images. Of course to be an art history major in college means analyzing works of art, theorizing about artists’ processes, and ultimately piecing together history through objects (usually of aesthetic value). I had the pleasure of studying under Professor Lawrence Nees, whose main focus was the early artistic traditions of Islam. I learned a great deal about the Alhambra and was captivated by the intricacy of architectural details and adornment through calligraphic words throughout the monument.

“We are imprisoned by our sensory interaction with the world.”

I had never imagined myself or anyone else present in the spaces in which I learned about in college. I never wondered what life

Arabic Garden


Acequia Court at Alhambra Palace in Granada, Andalusia, Spain (Photo: Jeffrey Schrader)


what like in those spaces or what sorts of interactions may have occurred that were different than today. I never thought about what is so essential to my human condition—the processes by which I filter worldly information. The processes I may take for granted and never would have thought to relate to my study of art history.

Spaces are designed for reasons—visual pleasure may only be one of them. A question was posed Tuesday night about the curation of Islamic gardens—a gentleman wondered if the composition of gardens was purely made through visual decisions. Dr. Ruggles insisted that scent was taken into account when designing the flower arrangements in the garden—perhaps even more so than the visual aspects. I immediately started thinking about my own experiences arranging objects according to their scent—picking out various candles for a room and testing out their fragrances, or perhaps making sure that my perfume does not clash with the smell of my partner’s cologne.

– Lindsey Snyder, Marketing Director


Tik Tik Tik; Learning to Teach Arabic from Moffet Elementary Students

The most enjoyable times at the Moffet After-School Arab Arts Program are when we have breakthroughs. There are many types of breakthroughs; for instance, a students might turnaround their behavior in our program, and in school, following a serious conversation. Most recently, however, we have made leaps and bounds in the music class by employing a totally new approach to teaching elementary school children Arabic songs. To reveal our secret: we are now using simpler songs, with extremely catchy choruses and having advanced individual students focus their efforts on the more complicated verses. If sounds dull to you, understand that this approach meant that our children, who overwhelmingly do not speak Arabic, learned to sing this song in only a couple weeks: Tik Tik Tik. Don’t be distracted by the cuteness–okay, maybe be distracted a little–these kids’ Arabic-diction, pitch, and rhythm is very impressive.

To understand the superiority of our new approach, you have to know a little about our previous Arabic-song teaching experience at Moffet. Prior to “Tik Tik Tik,” the kids learned Yalli Zara’tu and Ya Naseem Ar-Reeh, but that process felt very difficult, and the children did not enjoy the arduous process of learning a whole Arabic song that did not wedge itself into their brain. On the other hand, our students literally sing Tik Tik Tik when they are walking through the hallways, and students seem very reluctant to learn the choir class. If the kids engage with the material to the point that they independently work on it, you know that our teachers are doing something right. And the fact that we had to adapt our material to make this happen only makes the success that more enjoyable.

If you are interested, come see the Moffet kids sing this Wednesday, Feb. 25th at City Hall! The Moffet Singers will sing Tik Tik Tik at Al-Bustan’s opening reception, which goes from 5-7pm on the fifth floor of City Hall. While the recordings are wonderful, it is actually much more enjoyable to see the kids perform the songs live. So, come on down this Wednesday to see how amazing our singers are in person.

Also, if any of you readers have ideas for catchy, relatively simple Arabic songs that are culturally rich, please post them in the comments section of this post! Al-Bustan is not just a garden, but a community as well; we deeply appreciate contributions such as song suggestions. Peace!

Max Dugan
Al-Bustan Program Coordinator