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About Oman and Frankincense

Enfleurage Middle East, LLC is the name of our Frankincense Distillery in The Sultanate of Oman.

OMAN FROM THE SKY from CYRIL EBERLE on Vimeo.

Frankincense is really happy growing Southeastern Arabia, the African Horn and India. Indian Frankincense  (Boswellia serrata) is the frankincense found in Ayurveda's materia medica. It's plentiful, not expensive, and well researched. Somali frankincense (mostly Boswellia carterii,) is quite lovely and plentiful. Most frankincense resin used for incense comes from Somaliland or Puntland. There are also species found in Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, Djibouti.....

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But the most refined, the most beautiful and some would say the holiest, frankincense is from Dhofar, Oman's southernmost governate. Boswellia sacra is delicious, delightful and sublime in the extreme. The smoke from the resin is perfect for scenting one's home, one's clothes; and to repel both insects and djinn. The green resin is soaked overnight in water and the water then drunk, for all kinds of upset stomaches. 

In Southern Oman, frankincense trees are seen as the Mother of society, and the "umbrella of our lives," caring for her children with the very blood in her veins. This is the traditional home of frankincense, the place where Herodotus' flying snakes protected the sacred groves. This part of Oman was the treasure chest from which camels and their traders crossed the Empty Quarter towards Europe along the Incense Trail. 


Oman is one of only two Sultanates in the world (the other is Brunei)--it’s a stable, calm country with a long magnificent coastline on the Indian ocean. Oman sits just south of the United Arab Emirates (UAE,) east of Saudi Arabia and northeast of Yemen.  

images-1.jpg thanks to welt-atlas.de

Not all of Oman is a natural habitat for frankincense trees. They can grow in the north, and grow large, but given the choice, they will grow in Dhofar only. Dhofar, the most southern Governorate, abuts Yemen (Al Mahrah & Hadramawt.) Northern Dhofar becomes the Empty Quarter, a land of dunes and emptiness, a sand sea. This space, called Rub Al Khali in Arabic, flows into both Yemen and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The coastal part of Dhofar, between the Indian ocean and the mountains, is a monsoon-attracting micro-climate, and every year the hills of Dhofar become lush and green. Coconuts and bananas, papayas, limes and pomegranates grow abundantly. So does frankincense--in the high humidity areas near the ocean, in the area between the mountains and the desert, in the wadis, the hills, and plains.....so many different types! But they are all Boswellia sacra. 

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Frankincense grows wildly and abundantly throughout Dhofar, at different elevations, surrounded by different plants, and with differing humidity levels. The trees are owned by the local tribes and the harvest is usually contracted out. Oman has strict controls regarding the export of resin, and the amount of resin from Oman is not as plentiful as some of the neighboring countries. But it's unparalleled in exquisiteness. Led since 1970 by HM Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman has looked ahead and taken steps to cultivate frankincense trees, lest the natural wild trees become depleted. 

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Salalah is the main city of Dhofar, and Oman’s second largest city. It lies 1100 km south from the capital, Muscat. Salalah is tribal, conservative, and tradition-bound. People speak a combination of a local mountain language (Jebali), a desert language, (Mahri) and Arabic, which is a Dhofari dialect. The large subcontinental population speaks mostly Malyyalam and Urdu. You can also find many people here who speak Swahili or Baluchi. 


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Oman (especially the wild south) is also known for wild animals--here you can see gazelles, wolves, Arabian leopards, caracals, hyenas, and plenty more--plus an outstanding assortment of birds, turtles and sea creatures. 


If you’re interested, here is the Environment Society of Oman

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Salalah is a great place to visit--especially if you’re working in the Gulf. It may be a long haul from the Americas but it’s amazing, and well worth the effort. A two week vacation from North America can give you a decent amount of time in the Sultanate. You can fly good airlines through any of the Gulf hubs--Doha (Qatar), Dubai (Emirates) or Abu Dhabi (Etihad). Or through Europe on OmanAir. There are plenty of travel options. Once here, you can easily sign up for a tour, or tours, or rent a car and drive yourself. Oman is safe and friendly. The biggest danger (according to the US State Dept website) is camels wandering onto the road at night. If you hold a US or Canadian passport, you can get a visa on arrival in Muscat.

See here for Lonely Planet Oman

If you are thinking about coming to Oman for a holiday, you’re in for a treat.



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