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Middle East fragrance traditions and popular scents you should know about

With a strong culture about perfumes, Arabic or Middle East traditions have played a significant role in the overall development of European perfumery.

Resins, spices, animal essentials, herbs, and exotic wood oils as musk or ambergris are some of the essential raw materials that Arabic fragrances have traditionally utilized towards creating enchanting scents.

At the same time, flowers like jasmine, orange, or rose blossoms are and have been consistently used in Arabia or Middle East perfumes.

An Insight into the Use of Scents in the Middle East

The Islamic culture is known to have used perfumery with deep connections to the religion and its beliefs. The first-ever use of perfumery was recorded way back in the VI century.

Most families in the Arabian region used to prepare something known as ‘Bakhoor.’ It was a type of incense that was used for purifying homes and surroundings.

Every Arabian family typically used to have their own scent or fragrance of Bakhoor. It is because families used to mix ingredients like sugar, musk, amber, and so more to produce the scent.

They made use of the ingredients to prepare a paste that was dried under sunlight. This resulted into the formation of a dried block.

The block was eventually divided into smaller pieces. Then, these pieces were burned. It resulted in the production of a fume that was responsible for perfuming the entire room or area.

Middle East Fragrances -An Olfactory Experience Like Never Before

The perfumes of the Middle East are immensely appealing, alluring, and mysterious.

The scenario presents an aromatic panorama of potent woody, smoky, floral, and sensual elements.

These fragrances have become immensely popular due to the advent of modern perfumes who have been successful in capturing the exquisite essence of the Middle East fragrances while presenting a highly dynamic and sophisticated consumer base.

In the Middle East region of the world, perfumes are regarded as a powerful statement about the overall individuality.

The use of perfumes has been associated with attracting the attention of the holy spirits and repelling the evil ones.

It is omnipresent in the Arabic community and deeply embedded in society, history, religion, and even daily customs.

Middle East Scents and Its Culture

The Emiratis -along with other neighbors in the Persian Gulf including Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, are regarded as some of the most extravagant spenders per capita on luxury perfume in the world.

It is estimated that they keep purchasing a bottle of luxury perfume almost every two months. This is in comparison to an average Westerner who spends on perfumes only every six months.

For both women and men of the Arab World, the application of high-end scents appears to be ritualistic.

Therefore, it involves the layering of different oils -including jasmine, Oud, rose, or musk.

They even go ahead with infusing hair and clothing with smoke out of incense-like concoction known as ‘Bakhoor.’

It is prepared with the help of wooden chips soaked in perfume-based oil while mixing the same with other ingredients like sandalwood.

All the elements are effectively combined before being sprayed in the form of perfumes.

The process of layering tends to be complex as well as artistic as it involves ample experience and precise skills.

Blending different scents like spiced, woody, or floral might not get along with each other upon being bottled.

However, ultimately, they turn out to be delightfully fragrant when the scents are layered on top of one another.

Use of Scents by the Arabic Population in the Middle East

For a majority of Arabic population, fragrant oils are also applied on the skin of children to ensure protection against bakhoor burns and sunburns on a daily basis.

The formulae for these essential oils are passed down through generations.

In the Arabian culture, fragrance is also associated with a divine dining experience.

In most homes and families, right after a meal, guests are mostly presented with a tray of fragrance to try out as a sample.

While Westerners are known to love divine perfume formulations while considering it as one of the secondary or tertiary fashion accessories, in the Middle East nations, fragrance is regarded as almost something sacred.

For instance, in Dubai, fragrance is regarded as the ultimate form of self-expression.

Therefore, women here keep changing their perfumes quite often -similar to the way women in the West change their outfits.

Additionally, the codification of perfumes is perceived distinctively here.

While attitudes keep changing, western fragrances for most part tend to be gender-specific. The Arabic culture continues doing away with these cultural disparities.

Still, the concept of equality of women in this part of the world is still a major issue. Despite the fact, women & men continue wearing same fragrances.

Perfume is highly renowned in the Islamic religion. Therefore, it is specified across several instances are sacred in the scriptures of the Holy Quran.

The Advent of the Attar in the Middle East

In the West, a majority of perfumes are made out of alcohol.

Alcohol is strictly prohibited amongst the Muslims and people of the Middle East.

Therefore, perfumes in this region of the world are prepared with essential oils.

The essence of these perfumes is enhanced by adding herbs, spices, or distilled water. The combination of different oils and essential ingredients is referred to as the Attar.

Attar serves to be a unique way to experience fragrance altogether.

It is because of the unique composition that is enhanced with the use of exclusive ingredients like musk, amber, and rose.

Due to this, these ingredients are mixed together boldly (known as layering) to go ahead with experimenting with new and exciting notes along with different levels of intensity.

Understanding the Importance of Oud in Fragrances of the Middle East

The overall influence of the modern culture of the Middle East has significantly shifted the concept of perfumery -quite exclusively due to the effects of Oud or even Agarwood fragrances.

Oud is a precious raw material that is extracted out of the fungus-infected resinous heartwood of the Aloeswood or Agarwood tree.

This tree is primarily found in the dense forests of India, Southeast Asia, and Bangladesh.

The term Oud is derived from the Arabic term implying wood.

The single, powerful ingredient is responsible for representing the essence of traditions and the fragrance culture of the Middle East.

Oudh is renowned for its property to form successive layers of scents -blending essences of smoky and warm notes combined with that of dampened wood.

The ingredient aims at enhancing the retaining power of important olfactory elements.

When this aroma is blended with other fragrant oils, it goes ahead with delivering a sense of comfort, opulence, and luxury -in comparison to other perfumery ingredient.

A Glance at the World of Oudh Fragrances of the Middle East

Oudh comprises of several aspects of the world of perfumes. It is capable of being simultaneously pleasing and pungent.

When you blend Oudh with touches of fruity or floral fragrances, the predominant fragrance turns out to be sensual and musky.

Oudh has been an integral part of the Middle East perfume landscape for several centuries.

The Prophet -Muhammad, had referred to Agarwood or Aloeswood as a rare item found in the Heaven.

He even went forth to encourage the tradition of Oudh fumigation -a practice continuing in the Islamic world even until this day.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the famous verse of Song of Songs has also mentioned Oud to be a form of incense.

In the modern era, Oudh is referred to as the scent of five thousand dollar per pound.

Therefore, it is regarded as one of the most expensive ingredients in the world for fragrances.

As resin gets triggered only due to the formation of mold, the overall rarity of the raw material makes Oudh extremely expensive and authentic.

According to a belief, it is estimated that only one out of ten trees out there will feature the infected heartwood.

Perfume experts and connoisseurs continue seeking materials out of older trees as they tend to feature superior richness of the aroma of the resin.

However, a number of trees of the agarwood species are now regarded as endangered.

Initially, the addition of Oudh in the manufacturing of western fragrances was hit only in the Middle East.

However, now the world-famous essence or scent has surpassed global boundaries while becoming one of the most extracts perfumers continue incorporating across a wide range of unique fragrance selections.

As a matter of fact, every fragrance house out there in the world feature at least one scent containing the essence of Oudh.

Important Statistics on Oudh

It is estimated that the Oudh international market excels at around $6 billion.

Moreover, its overall value is believed to be around one-and-a-half-times more than the valuable gold.

This is the reason why Oudh is also referred to as Liquid Gold in several instances.

As per a recent report, it is estimated that Oudh can mostly cost around $5,000 for every pound.

At the same time, retailers are able to sell around 3 grams of Oudh for around $300.

It is claimed that only a little portion of oil is required during every application. Therefore, it is expected that a single bottle of Oudh essential oil can last an average user almost an entire year.

Other Important Elements of the Middle East Fragrances

· Opoponax: It is another essential raw material that is also known as Sweet Myrrh.

It is derived out of the natural resin of the shrub’s stem growing across the arid regions of the Middle East.

The raw material is intensely versatile while being used as an essential oil in the Middle East -especially in the perfumery industry.

It is because the raw material blends effectively while providing access to aromatic balance with several other essential oils -including the ones found in resin, spices, wood, citrus, floral, and herbal species.

Within the scope of natural applications, opoponax is used in the form of a base or middle note.

In most cases, it is also burned in the form of incense for its immensely relaxing and grounding properties. Its aroma is mostly velvety, woody, and warm.

· Cistus-Labdanum: It is a famous indigenous small-sized shrub that features beautiful pink & white flowers.

The shrub is mostly covered with a resin known as ‘labdanum.’ The resin prevents the flowers and shrub from drying out under the conditions of intense, dry heat of the Middle East.

In the field of perfumery, the resin is extracted as it emits an aroma that appears both animalistic and woody.

The gum of labdanum is primarily used in the form of incense while featuring as the base note across several fragrances.

The ingredient blends effectively with dark & musky patchouli and earthly oak moss.

The Art of Layering in the Middle East

Part of the international demand of the Middle East fragrances is also a perfect blend of different fragrances -subtle, sharp, and even spicy.

These fragrances are capable of catering to the modern lifestyles of people in metros.

Underneath thawb (longer garments worn by men) and abayas (the long garment worn by women) in the Middle East, people in this region wear layers as an integral part of the lifestyle.

This is applicable not just in garments but also in fragrances.

Throughout the Arab world, both women & men regard fragrances ritualistically -layering several layers of perfumes and essential oils.


Perfumes are precious accessories of the Middle East.

You can enter the mesmerizing world of divine perfumes and essential oils that are prevalent in the Middle East.

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