The smell of winter

There is a scent to every season.

And every season differs form place to place.

The steaming smell of wet earth after the first rain of autumn.

The dew on the leaves at dawn in the early days of spring.

And the smell of mist and that peculiar one, so hard to describe and yet so recognisable, that seems to be there to warn you that it is about to snow.

And there are smells that stay in your memory and will forever tell you the story of one particular place.

Like fog in Venice in November.

Like the mixture of coriander and exhaust in Bombay at dusk while walking in the vegetable market in Dharavi, the so-called largest slum of Asia.

And now here in Kabul there is the smell of sawdust.

Walking after dark, the harsh and dry smell of dust that seems to be chasing you the whole day gives way to the smell of sawdust.

Pungent, earthy, somewhat zesty.

Sawdust is what is used here to light the bukhari, the traditional heating system that – combined with plastic sheets on the windows (more on this soon) – make the freezing cold winter bearable.

There is something magic about falling asleep with the bukhari on, the heat is potent and dry and the sizzling noise of the sawdust getting slowly consumed lulls you to sleep. It is a cozy feeling that makes me think of home.


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