Saudi women learn the secrets of incense making
For decades, women in the Gulf have been interested in perfumes and incense using it for special occasions or for different moods. Studies indicate that perfumes play a big role in the lives of Arab and Muslim communities being used during social gatherings or on one’s person.
Gulf women have a wide choice in the types of perfumes and incense native to the land of Arabia including the famous and popular Al-Oudh, as well as Al-Sandal, Al-Saffron, Al-Amber, Al-Mesk, Al-Henna, Al-Nassem, Al-Jasmine, Al-Nadeem and others.
Incense is a mixture of moist grainy powder which when placed on hot coals in burners emanates aromatic fragrances in the form of smoke. Burners come in different shapes and colors; they can be electric while others can be used to light natural or artificial coals.
A kind of incense named Aldkhoun, which is made from a paste consisting of Saja Al-Oudh, Al-Mesk and Al-Amber in addition to essential oils from roses is kneaded and pressed to form small round discs which can be kept between clothes to keep them smelling fresh.
Many women also enjoy Al-Oudh which is often burned to release the smell of the wood and which is symbolic of the warm welcome guests can expect to receive in an Arab household.
Amna Ali Al-Amin, an incense industry trainer, says that she trains Saudi girls on how to make Al-Dosari incense, which consists of Al-Oudh, Al-Zoforfor, Al-Jawi, Al-Mesteka, Al-Sandal, Al-Hobosh, Al-Anbar, mixed roses, and Al-Zaafran. Throughout her 15 years of practicing in this industry, she said she is amazed by the presence of young female trainees who are graduates of secondary and high schools. The training includes how to mix the perfume and the standard weighing and mixing technique, she said.
Shara Ahmad, a 28-year-old, said that she began selling and buying clothing and accessories after studying sewing, but because she has always wished to learn how to make incense, she decided to attend a course at the Chamber of Commerce in Abha to learn how to start any project, followed by a specialized course in incense mixing.
Ahmad said: “The secret of the mixture is in boiling and filtering the dates, then adding specific amounts of several precious incense to be mixed and kneaded together to form rounded discs. The pieces are left out for a week to dry, and then sprayed with expensive fragrances and placed in special containers.
Ms. Sherifa said she was trained in the mechanism of making the local incense, which consists of Al-Sandal, Al-Jawi, Al-Zafar and Absha. She was trained on how to mix expensive perfumes, including Al-Roh and Al-Mesk, pointing out that the reason for her joining this training course was her desire to increase her income to help her husband in supporting their family. She said that incense is one of the favorite perfumes among women and is also a good business with good profit.
For Fatima Zahir, training in the incense industry helped her achieve her dream of being able to support herself and her family. She said she learned to develop mixtures and new fragrances, but said there is a need for more community support and the support of businessmen in the region in marketing their products.
Bidaa Al-Dosari, a participant in festivals that sell perfumes, sprays and incense, called for the opening of a special plant for women to produce complex perfumes and incense and support their efforts to export products internationally.
In recent years, incense has attracted a large segment of tourists from the GCC and visitors to Abha, many of whom are keen to buy incense as a special souvenir to commemorate their visit.