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Salalah – The land of Frankincense

Salalah, Oman during Khareef

My love for aromatic oils finally overtook my inertia and I found myself in the charismatic city of Salalah – the land of Frankincense. June to August is Khareef season, when the monsoon clouds from India come bearing gifts of mist, cooler temperatures and abundant rainfall to Dhofar mountain range of Oman. The long drive from UAE is worth the trouble. One minute you are in hot, arid climate with scorching sun and next, you are welcomed by green lands of Dhofar; no less beautiful than Irish grasslands.

Boswellia Sacra frankincense tree in Wadi Dokah

First stop is Wadi Dokah, a Unesco World Heritage Site that is home to a forest of over five thousand frankincense trees (Boswellia Sacra), some of which are estimated to be over 200 years old. Tourists can see young trees, recently planted in the rough terrain of the Wadi. Rest of the area is strictly cordoned off to preserve the natural heritage, where the older trees are scattered in its natural habitat. Once the tree is 8-10 years old, small incisions are made on the tree trunk (tapping) with a specially designed knife. This causes the trees to secret a milky substance/ resin, which coagulates when in contact with air. This teardrop shaped resin is the famed Frankincense.  Dhofari resin (silver to light green) is considered to be the best in the world due to its medicinal benefits and an amazing aroma.

Al Baleed Archaeological park, Salalah

Next stop is Al Baleed Archeological Park and Museum of the Frankincense land. Ruins of a Citadel and a mosque have been unearthed and remind of an era gone by. The frankincense( luban) trade flourished here during the 8th century to 16th century AD. Although there are some gift shops attached to the park, we decide to go the Hafah Souk for the real deal and try our luck at customary haggling. 

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I personally like the Muttrah souk in Muscat more but we aren’t disappointed. Shop owners are knowledgeable about different grades and uses of Frankincense and Myrrh resins. They are only too willing to whip a glowing ember of coal, place the resins on it, and let the fragrant smoke rise up to fascinate your senses. Traditional terracotta/ limestone burners, perfume infused Luban, Ittr and Attars, Cosmetics and Edibles line the shelves. I am occasionally offered to chew on a tiny lump of green Hojari Frankincense, with lofty promises of its medicinal properties. It is tasteless but leaves a nutty herbal aftertaste in my mouth. It turns to gum and can be discarded in the same manner afterwards.

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Another way to use both Luban and Myrrh resins is to soak a couple of pieces overnight in water and drink the water in the morning. It is anti-inflammatory, mild laxative and a blood cleanser, among a host of other benefits. It was eye opening to find out that Frankincense from different countries( India, Lebanon, Somalia and Yemen) has different fragrance composition and not all varieties are edible.

Nour Al Luban Candles, Deluxe Collection, Palm Lights

My prized possessions though are the essential oils of Frankincense and Myrrh, made by a traditional steam distillation method. I use the oils to fragrance the popular Nour al luban candles and Frankincense incense sticks at Palm Lights. I also blend these essential oils in meditation candles, useful to balance the third eye/ brow chakra. Its sedative, earthy fragrance that is known to enhance the mood and combat stress and anxiety. It is believed that, in spiritual practices, the scent of Frankincense strengthens both intuition and a spiritual connection. With bags full of Luban, Myrrh and its aromatic oil to last me an year, I came back a happy soul and can not wait to share these treasures with you. 

Luban candles and incense are available for corporate gifts and can be customised with your logo. Drop a message at bhawna@palmlights.ae to find out the MOQ and prices.

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