Scents and sensibility: A story of bukhoor at Sharjah Heritage Days

Sharjah, April 8, 2021

Taking place in the historic Heart of Sharjah district until April 10, Sharjah Heritage Days (SHD) seeks to highlight the heritage and rich culture of the UAE. Also being showcased are the unique cultural aspects specific to the UAE and Gulf region.

One such important facet of daily life in the UAE is perfuming clothes and the home with incense, known as “bukhoor”. Its use is linked to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), who encouraged people to keep their homes and themselves smelling fragrant, especially before Friday prayers.

The now ubiquitous Arab tradition is an integral and habitual part of daily life. Comprising scented chipped wood placed on a circled coal plate, the bukhoor is burned in a mabkhara – a traditional incense burner or censer. The many varieties of bukhoor keep a home and its inhabitants smelling fresh and does away with any odours.

SHD features local bukhoor sellers, who do the product research and make the bukhoor themselves. Nawaf Mohammed, who has his own brand of bukhoor called Al Diwaniya, worked at the ground level in factories to learn all about bukhoor making, and started his own business once he gained enough experience. The raw material for his bukhoor, featuring scents of oud and mamool among others, is brought from India, Cambodia and the Philippines.  He adds his own mix of oils to the raw products, which go through a process of baking in the oven. His bukhoor sports the black colour – some of it derived from charcoal and some of it naturally derived.

Over at another counter, Umm Saif sells her own homegrown brand, named Magic Smells, encompassing 10 different varieties of the incense, including musk, floral, and vanilla. A licensed Emirati brand with over 15 years of experience in the market, her creations are a unique combination of French and Arabic incense. She also stocks liban gum and perfumes, again her own formulations, at her stall.

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