Saudi Arabia and the scent of oud


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.”

Categories: Asia, Burma, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia

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6 replies

  1. This oud is very common out here, too and most people import it from Dubai and we get a variety of it most of which is quite affordable.

    Yes, the very high quality ones cost a fortune which few can afford.

    I personally love burning this for special occasions and it gives clothes a very good scent, too.

    People here use it during weddings and the bride especially is nearly ‘drenched’ in it’s scent including her hair, etc.

    Oh, it’s lovely!

  2. Ramadan Mubarak

    A good Oud distiller or seller will afford his brothers and sisters a variety of oils at different price points from the most expensive to the most affordable. For example:

    These are the highest grade oud oils i have ever smelled. Everything is 20% off on top of that!

  3. Pure Oud oil is a luxury, but is the only fragrance/perfume I can wear. Shebar Oud does have the best smelling, most complex Oud oils. I think when it is not a complex scent it is not real or of high quality. I cannot wear the Bangeam without getting a compliment. I wear it everyday and wear a vintage Oud for special occasions. Shebar Oud has a few vintage Oud oils also which I will try out. My oils actually worth more money now than when I first got them as a treasured gift. They make me feel very nostalgic when I wear them. The site for Shebar Oud is which I am sticking with for now.

  4. Definitely pure oud oils are the way to go, for anyone based in the UK i think you should try out Easily the best for value for money and can hold their own against the big names. These guys are also very active in over-seeing their distillations personally

  5. Invest on the Agarwood Plantation ( the scent from heaven ) and get 6 times than your investment as the lucrative return within 8 years. send your email id for more details. (

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