Frankincense from the Dhofar region

In 2000, UNESCO recognized the historic significance of this « Land of frankincense » by inscribing it on its World Heritage List 3 . It is in the region of Dhofar, south of Oman, that the highest quality resin is produced in the world. It is known as Royal Hojari. As an endemic plant, it benefits from exceptional weather conditions. It is used in perfumery but also for its medicinal virtues by the Omanis.

The main factor that determines the quality of the resin is the location of the frankincense trees. But the abundant humidity of July and August, affects the quality of the resin.

Source and quality

The Dhofari mountain range divides the Dhofar into two main areas : the coastal plain that receives annual monsoon rains (or khareef) and the plateau, a drier zone that produces the best frankincense.

A semi-desert high plateau contemplates the coastline along a steep rocky barrier.

On this limestone plateau, the climate is arid, punctuated by the waves of monsoons periodically watering the coastal fringe. It is on this plateau that the frankincense tree thrives.

It is necessary to wait at least the age of nine to ten years, so that the tree produces a resin of good quality.

Plateau

These trees with several stems are shorter than those of the coastal plain. The trees grow in an extremely dry climate.

Best

Fresh frankincense, Hojari, produced by trees far from the coastal areas, has a greenish color but turns yellowish with age.

Good

The Dhofaris call it the « Number two »

Coastal plain

In this area, when well supplied with water, trees can reach 6 m in height or more. They are leafy because they have a lot of humility.

Fresh

Resin produced by trees near the coastal area is light brown when fresh.

Old

It becomes dark brown when older. With impurities but still good.

Production areas and quality

Coastal plain

SHAIBI -lower quality that is produced in the coastal plain in the dhofar

Desert

NAJDI -The second highest level of quality produced from trees found in the desert part behind the mountain.

First quality

HOJARI -Hojari is the highest quality level produced from dry parts of eastern Dhofar

Third quality

ZAHRI -Third level of better quality produced from trees found in wadis of western Dhofar

  • Coastal plain

    SHAIBI -lower quality that is produced in the coastal plain in the dhofar

  • Desert

    NAJDI -The second highest level of quality produced from trees found in the desert part behind the mountain.

  • First quality

    HOJARI -Hojari is the highest quality level produced from dry parts of eastern Dhofar

  • Third quality

    ZAHRI -Third level of better quality produced from trees found in wadis of western Dhofar

Plant species have a certain characteristic. They are highly dependent on climate, availability of water, quality of sunlight, temperature and soil. Thus, the Boswellia in Oman can vary in many ways.

The peak of the mountain range is a very important natural element. Rains and winds from the coastal plain fade over the ridge.

Humidity levels drop sharply, leaving a semi-desert soil with desert and limestone, favoring the production of high-quality frankincense.

The famous Hojari frankincense is produced in an area located 25 km from the hinterland of Jebel Samhan, between 1000 and 1500m altitude. (between points B and C)

Beyond this area 500 to 1000m above sea level, the density of Boswellia sacra begins to decrease towards the interior of the desert (between points C and D).

The rains are occasional. The resins obtained from trees are not damaged by the rains. However too much drought could kill trees because their roots could not receive the necessary nutrients.4

The frankincense trade

In the souks of Salalah and Muscat, the stalls of incense and perfumes mix together. The frankincense is packaged in packs of 500g or 1kg.
Before being sold, the fresh resin is dried for a short time and then sorted according to the grain size. The frankincense that is sold in general in the souk is not pure Hojari. it is often a mixture of Hojari.
The grain resin is sold by bag and by weight. Price varies depending on the size, color and quantity of production. There is no « waste » unsold, even the « dust » of frankincense is sold at very low prices.
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