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History & Heritage


Discovering the land of incense in Oman

In the mountainous region of Dhofar, in Oman, a rare tree grows in great quantities: the Boswellia sacra. It is from its trunk that incense, the famous aromatic resin, is extracted. On the steep slopes, the valleys are divided into four major sites, listed as “Land of Incense” by UNESCO.

The land of incense in the Dhofar region

The region known as the “land of incense” is a region in the Sultanate of Oman, which stretches from the Dhofar mountains to the border of Yemen. A territory that, thanks to its cool and humid climate, benefits from abundant vegetation. It is in the heart of this natural area that there are entire valleys of incense trees, called “Boswellia sacra”. With so much abundance, the land of incense was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.

To harvest the incense, a first incision is made in the bark of the tree. A few white pearls come out and are left to dry for several days. These turn into yellowish crystals that can be crumbled with the fingertips. By this gesture, a pronounced perfume is released. The tree is then pruned again, causing it to produce more sap.



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Une publication partagée par Basel Sultan (@basel_sultan_99)

Omani incense, a thousand-year-old history

Since the High Antiquity, the famous resinous substance was harvested and then exported via the incense routes. Land routes crossed the Arabian Peninsula along the west coast, but also sea routes from the port of Sumhuram to supply the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. The latter were particularly fond of incense and used it to embalm the mummies of the pharaohs, honor the gods of the temples, etc.

These large-scale flows testify to the influence of incense at the time. And nowadays, what about this commercial activity?

The incense trade in Oman today

Although Oman’s wealth is mainly based on oil today, incense still plays an important economic role. One only has to walk through the country’s souks to realize that incense triumphs on the stalls. Omanis use it daily to perfume clothes, purify interiors and even treat digestive disorders. The high-quality resin called “hojari” is appreciated for its therapeutic properties, such as strengthening the immune system or treating respiratory problems. This “premium” incense is sold at around 70 € per kilo. Many are also the luxury perfumeries of the region to get the precious elixir!

An economic market that develops primarily at the local level and around the neighboring Arab countries.

Published on 5 August 2022