The Wadi Dawkah in southern Oman has been considered the place of origin of frankincense since ancient times. Although it has only a fraction of its former value, the fragrant resin is still harvested here as it was 3,000 years ago.
Anyone interested in Oman's history should not miss a visit to Wadi Dawkah. In the "cradle of incense", the precious gift of Allah has been extracted for thousands of years. The fragrant resin was weighed out with gold, made kings rich and powerful and also brought down some of them.
Pieces of incense were already found in Tutankhamun's tomb in the Egyptian Valley of the Kings, and incense offerings were made to the gods in Rome, Babylon, Persia and Egypt.
On the Incense Road
The Wadi Dawkah is located in the province of Dhofar in the south of Oman about 40km north of Salalah and has been considered the place of origin of the precious resin since ancient times. It is located on the legendary Frankincense Route, which leads from Oman via Yemen and Saudi Arabia, along the Red Sea to Petra in Jordan and via today's Gaza Strip to Alexandria in Egypt.
Both the Bible and the Koran report on what was probably the first transport of incense on the Incense Road. In the 10th century BC, the Queen of Sheba is said to have travelled to Palestine and taken incense as gifts to King Solomon, in addition to gold and precious stones.
Under the name "Land of Frankincense", Wadi Dawkah is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with other sites on the Frankincense Route.
Visit to Wadi Dawkah
At first glance, the Wadi Dawkah does not look very spectacular. It is a seemingly dry valley, where masses of gnarled incense trees are lined up next to each other. If you leave your car at the car park and approach the trees, you will soon be approached by an incense valley attendant from whom every visitor can learn a lot about incense.
In the past, the incense harvest was a real ceremony and the "tears of the gods" were exported all over the world. Frankincense trees can neither be transplanted nor cultivated and so the Arabs held the frankincense monopoly for many centuries.
Nowadays, frankincense is only worth a fraction of what it was back then, but it is still popular in Oman.
About 5,000 trees grow in Wadi Dawkah, which are still cultivated with the same method as 3,000 years ago. Their bark is scratched to harvest the resin that comes out three weeks later. After three years, the tree is allowed to rest for several years.
The lighter the resin, the less contaminated and the more valuable the incense. The so-called "Hougari" from the Wadi Dawkah is still considered the world's best incense. However, only the ruins along the Incense Road still bear witness to the once flourishing business.