Scents of Al Seef: exploring the fragrance houses of old Dubai

Follow your nose in the bustling neighbourhood on the banks of the creek

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No journey to Dubai's Al Seef is complete without some time spent wondering the charming sikkas, or alleyways, and exploring the many fragrance houses tucked away.

Located along the storied Dubai Creek, you can smell the fragrant wafts of Emirati scents throughout the area.

Burning fragrances the traditional Emirati way. Antonie Robertson / The National

The area delivers both traditional and modern perfume styles. Passionate traders can walk you through the aromatic components at unassuming stalls.

Many of the shops, including Oud and Sandal, boast displays of pyramids of dried fruits and flowers, colourful spices and loose herbs, which line the entrances and entice shoppers. Neatly put on view in front are rows of bottles of fragrant oils.

Perfumes and pyramids of spices at Oud and Sandal. Antonie Robertson / The National

Modern stores can also be found, with a rainbow of colourful bottles, containing perfumes that span the scent spectrum.

Fragrance bottles lined up at Al Bait Dimashqi Perfumes. Antonie Robertson / The National

An olfactory experience, visitors should be ready to be led by their nose, as they travel around the many stores.

Finding the perfect fragrance match at Eter Story. Antonie Robertson / The National

Breaking down the different scents and notes is a part of the experience.

Rose, oud, amber, musk, jasmine, frankincense and sandalwood are all prevalent in traditional Emirati perfumes.

Rows of fragrances at Oud and Sandal. Antonie Robertson / The National

The notes are also notably popular today, used in countless designer fragrances. Tom Ford's Oud Wood is a heavy, atmospheric scent, with spicy and warm accords. Elie Saab's Essence No 1 Rose boasts floral rose notes, as its name suggests.

Rosewater is a key note in traditional fragrances at Al Bait Dimashqi Perfumes. Antonie Robertson / The National

The heritage of the Emirates is celebrated through fragrances, clearly exhibited with National Day bottles that proudly bear the country's flag and commemorate 1971, the year that the UAE was established.

A UAE National Day fragrance at Eter Story perfumery. Antonie Robertson / The National
Updated: November 12, 2022, 9:21 AM