By Alison Bate

A well-worn package arrived today from northern Nigeria.

The Fedex package looked lumpy, heavily inspected, with yellow and blue stickers and tape splashed with orange type declaring “Inspected by Canada Customs”.

The sender: W.J. Bush & Co. of Kano, Nigeria. The original company of W.J.Bush & Co. may no longer exist in East London, but perfume production is still going strong in Kano, northern Nigeria.

Several readers of my article “The Bint Factor”, published in Reader’s Digest Canada, had asked if they could buy Bint el Sudan in Canada.

The short answer is no, as it’s not made in North America, but an email to IFF’s Nick Evans worked wonders. Nick is International Flavors and Fragrances’s sales manager for Africa, and he arranged for 36 little bottles of the non-alcoholic perfume to be sent to me in Canada.

When I opened the package, three cardboard boxes appeared, surrounded by crunched-up transparent plastic. Looking for all the world like boxes at the hardware store holding screws or nails.

Each box bore the company label based on a photo taken by my grandfather E.E. Burgess in 1919. And inside the boxes are little bottles steeped in history.

I’ve just pulled out one of the little bottles, green in color, and can smell the distinctive scent on my fingers: strong, lingering and surprisingly pleasant. My grandfather always said the fragrance was too strong for European noses, but it seems pretty neat to me.

Now I just have to figure the best way to get some of the bottles to Nelson, Kamloops and Toronto…

* Surprise in the Souk
* Memories of Bint el Sudan