Amouage protects Omani heritage by harvesting frankincense

The perfume brand is training the next generation of young artisans to preserve a product once considered more precious than gold

Amouage is training young Omanis to harvest frankincense in the Unesco-protected site of Wadi Dawkah. Photo: Amouage
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Amouage, the opulent Omani perfumery, is set to make history as it prepares to harvest its first crop of frankincense from trees in the Unesco-protected site of Wadi Dawkah, Oman.

Once part of a flourishing route that transported frankincense to the world, Wadi Dawkah, the caravan oasis at Shisr, and the now the deserted ports of Khor Rori and Khor Al-Baleed have all been taken under the patronage of Unesco, in a bid to preserve them for future generations.

Now for the first time, the perfume house is set to harvest frankincense from the ancient groves. The dried tree sap or resin of the frankincense tree has been coveted for millennia for its rich aroma. Found only in the Arabian Peninsula, its scarcity has meant that at various times over the past 2,000 years frankincense has been considered more valuable than gold.

As part of a wider commitment to preserving Oman's unique culture, Amouage is embarking on an ambitious scheme to train the next generation of frankincense farmers, thus ensuring the skills survive.

It has brought together a group of young Omanis who will learn hands-on how to harvest the valuable crop under the watchful eye of a Dhofari foreman. To ensure the new generation receive the correct guidance, three elders from Thumrait have also been brought on to share knowledge gleaned during their years spent farming the resin.

Two of the young men will be following in the footsteps of their grandfathers, who also worked harvesting frankincense in the 1960s.

Sayyid Khalid bin Hamad Al Busaidi, chairman of the board of directors for Amouage, says: “It is our duty as caretaker of this important Unesco World Heritage Site to care for the land, its traditional inhabitants and the culture.”

He says that the long-term goal is to promote “sustainable and conscious regeneration of frankincense trees”, and to “create pathways for Omani youth to reconnect with such a vital component of our shared heritage and shape the future of the region for generations to come”.

The resin can be harvested twice a year – from March to May and again between September and October. Omani frankincense, or Boswellia sacra, from the Dhofar region is considered to be the finest in the world, with Hojari resin – whose rich scent is like honey and lemon and comes in smaller white or citrus-coloured tears of sap – regarded as the most desirable.

Amouage was founded in 1983 as “the gift of kings”. The story goes that the brand's founder, Al Busaidi, approached Oman's former leader, Sultan Qaboos, with a proposition: He would create a product that introduced Oman’s fragrance heritage to the world, something that would be worthy of being gifted to the sultan’s high-profile guests.

With this initiative, the brand continues what it set out to do – bring the peninsula's unique heritage to an ever wider audience.

Updated: August 02, 2023, 1:09 PM