Friday 27 July 2012
Oud incense and oil as well as eastern perfumes are on most Saudi families’ shopping lists. Burning oud, or agarwood, is an old tradition practiced at almost every home in Saudi Arabia all year long; it is also used as a gift in social occasions like weddings and engagements, where it is a common custom to include elegant-shaped, medium-sized pieces of oud in the traditional gift boxes presented to the parents and close relatives of the bride. During Eid, it is an old costume to burn some and let the fragrance of its smoke fill the house while receiving visitors. Many people wear it as perfume, using oud oil, when they go to Eid prayers and during visits. The demand for oud increases in Ramadan as Eid Al-Fitr approaches.
Saleh Omar Banafe has an incense shop in Jeddah. “The demand peaks at the last 10 days of Ramadan to use it for Eid days and prayers. Most buyers are Saudis; some of them are from other Gulf countries and North African countries, especially Morocco,” he said.
Banafe’s family has been in the business for more than 35 years. “Some traders buy their goods from others, who bring them from abroad. Some travel themselves to Southeast Asian countries to get the agarwood from Burma, Cambodia, Malaysia and Java in Indonesia.”
Oud in general is expensive. “This is because of the hazards involved in the process of obtaining it. Oud is extracted from the heart of trees that grow in the woods. The process of extracting it and bringing it involves difficult journeys and the possibility of encountering predators and venomous animals. Several traders had accidents during such journeys,” he said.
According to Banafe, Indian oud incense is the finest and most expensive. “It’s the king of bakhoor (incense),” he said. Cambodian oud comes second. “There are several types, including Javanese, Malaysian, and Burmese.”
The Indian oud is imported upon customers’ individual requests because of its high price, which reaches SR 6,000 to SR 8,000 per 12 grams. The price for an ounce of premium Cambodian oud can reach SR 5,000. A kilo can cost about SR 120, 000.
As for eastern perfumes, Banafe said they are as popular as incense. They include oud oil, Taif and Turkish rose oil, ambergris, white and black musk, and mixtures that contain two or more of those mentioned, he said. “Their prices are affordable for most people compared to oud incense, except for Taif rose oil, which is considered expensive. Twelve grams of its premium first-pick can reach SR 2,800 to SR 3,000.”