Mr. Al-Tayeh was fascinated with roses and dedicated his life to extracting their essence and capturing their fragrance. In 1950 he created what eventually immortalized him, a certain balm made from garnered rose butter and aptly called it Creme Al-Tayeh كريم الطايع. Within a few years, it became a genuine Tartoussi household name. Its inventor held that his secret formula possessed extraordinary medicinal properties and that it was a cure for virtually any dermatological ailment. Sixty years later, we still don't dispute his claim in Tartous, Creme Al-Tayeh is a magical balm and anyone lucky enough to have tried it would attest to that.
As a teenager, my first line of defense against pimples was a dab of the buttery balm. That's all it took, a dab or two, once or twice and my skin was clear again. From lip sores to hemorrhoids, burns, bruises, lacerations, eczema, black spots, hair loss, hair growth, bumps, ulcers, irritation and skin rash, Creme Al-Tayeh cured them all. It came in two forms, pink and white, prepared from either red or white rose petals. It was only a matter of preference to choose one color or another but most often everyone ended up buying both. Now as far as I'm concerned the most bewildering quality of the small jar was that it never seemed to run out of balm. During the extensive research in preparing this post (you can tell, can't you?) I asked a random sample of family and friends if they ever bought a jar and used it completely. They all confirmed my initial doubt, it's more likely to have it misplaced, to move out of the house and lose it during the packing and unpacking or to immigrate to another country than to actually consume it all.
Then as luck would have it I ran into a retired ambulance driver who transported patients to larger hospitals in Damascus. I remembered a previous conversation we've had in which he told me that he always ferried cartons full of Creme Al-Tayeh to one store in the Kassaa area of Damascus in his ambulance. There was a huge demand on the Creme and he ran a lucrative business on the side. Then he conspiratorially confided that among the Kassaa store very special clients and regular users of Creme Al-Tayeh were the Lebanese Younis Sisters, Heyam and Nezha. Now I really wonder how many readers actually know who Heyam and Nezha Younis are. Is there a statistically significant correlation between those readers who've heard of both Creme Al-Tayeh and of the Younis Sisters? I suppose this fascinating possibility deserves further investigation. Yet I can't let you (Ignorant Readers) get away with your callowness. To recognize Haifa Wehbe as a Lebanese superstar and not embrace Heyam's beautiful voice (and eyes) is sacrilegious. And what about you, Arabic movies' buffs who've never heard, or daydreamed of Nezha Younis? You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
The eldest of Mustafa Al-Tayeh's four daughters inherited the formula and continued in the footsteps of her father. She too had passed away but was able to transfer the secret to her sisters. They still prepare the balm, fill the jars and sell them at home in Tartous. Creme Al-Tayeh is also available in a few selected stores in the city and outside. I have 2 jars in my bathroom and I use them mostly for shaving cuts since, alas, I'm way past getting pimples on my face. If you tried it all but still can't get that perfect Tartoussi skin now you know our little secret. Nature and savvy conspired into making us the beautiful people we really are. Well these and a kindly gentleman from Lattakia...
who once upon a time made the clever choice and moved to the right place.