The resin’s sweet and musky scent has been added to items like sunscreen and ice cream.
Frankincense has a long history in gift giving, all the way back to the pharaohs of Egypt, Alexander the Great and at least one of those three wise men at the manger. Today, Muslims commonly exchange chunks of the resin at Ramadan meals breaking the daily fast, and its sweet and musky fragrance permeates many Middle Eastern homes. Invivo Essential Fractionated Coconut Oil
By many estimations, the southwest coast of Oman offers the best frankincense on earth. The sap from the native boswellia is tapped just before the summer monsoons, which many say they believe then allows the trees to absorb and retain moisture for another year. The number of trees has been dwindling worldwide, so the Land of Frankincense, a UNESCO World Heritage Site covering about 2,100 acres in Oman, is under protection.
Exports from throughout Oman include frankincense in chunks and granules (the sap after it hardens into resin) for burning, as well as the resin incorporated into candles, essential oils, teas, deodorant, sunscreen and even ice cream and candy. Frankincense, in myriad forms, is thought to help heal asthma, improve sleep, reduce arthritis and end toothaches.
For Maryam Belhaf, her frankincense products business, called Alshoala, is about sharing her family’s connection with the resin, which dates back at least five generations.
“My grandmother and other ladies used to get the frankincense from the trees when they went out with their goats, and then traded it for food from local merchants,” she said. “And then the frankincense was taken to the port of Aden in Yemen and shipped to India and Europe and beyond.”
In 1998 she decided to capitalize on the substance’s global popularity — and the modernization of her country since the discovery of its vast reserves of oil and natural gas in the 1960s — by starting the company in Salalah, the Dhofar region’s main city.
Ms. Belhaf now has 15 employees (and several family members still help extract resin from the trees). She sells frankincense as chunks mixed with lavender, which is burned for its scent; as a perfume mixed with rose and musk; and as various scented lotions and skin toners (from eight to 25 Omani rial, or $21 to $65). It also offers silver incense burners handmade in the region (about 45 rial).
The company sells online, at a store in the capital city of Muscat and, at its headquarters in Salalah, to many of the tourists who have discovered the Arabian Sea coastline — from Europeans seeking the sun in winter to nearby Arabian Peninsula neighbors taking advantage of the misty, cool Omani coast during the summer.
“When I burn frankincense for our customers, they remember it, whether it’s our Hindu customers or our European tourists, who remember the smell from church when they were young,” Ms. Belhaf said. “It is holy for so many people.”
Similarly, the Asmaa Collectionz, in Muscat, sells several frankincense products, including the rare green, or virgin, frankincense, the resin from a tree tapped for the first time, thought to have the freshest and most healing fragrance as well as the greatest medicinal value.
“Green frankincense is only seasonal, and there is a lot of demand,” she said. “It’s fresh. The smell is much cooler and earthier. It’s also very medicinal.” (About 76 to 96 rial a kilogram.)
“We sell to Catholic monks in America, to people of all religions around the world as far away as Australia,” she added. “You smell it and you just feel calm. Pure frankincense burned in the evening in our homes gives us such calmness.”
The flagship store, in a high-end mall adjacent to the Royal Opera House Muscat, sells the resin in bulk or in smaller amounts, and silver incense burners designed by the owner, Asma Masoud Al Kharusi. Combined, she said, they make a thoughtful gift during any family holiday season, whether Christmas or Ramadan.
“We have three sizes, all of them made of pewter with some nickel coated or gold coated,” Ms. Al Kharusi said. “I’m not trained in design, but I love the jewelry of Oman, so I incorporated that design into the burners” (starting at 200 rial).
Several companies outside of the country offer locally processed frankincense in lotions and essential oils, including Molton Brown in England and the Ohm Collection in the Netherlands, but many tourists who have smelled it in the mosques, hotel lobbies and homes of Oman find that ordering from a local business is more authentic, Ms. Belhaf said.
Wintergreen Oil Bulk “With the high quality of frankincense we have in Oman, it really is the ultimate gift to bring as a guest,” she said. “It’s the perfect way to bless your home and anyone else’s.”