Borneo is Kalimantan (Clemantan). Marketplace: Country: Indonesia

YOU can never ignore a scent that often hits one in the face in Saudi Arabia — this is regardless of whether one is walking past a store, a mosque or just ordinary members of the public. That scent is of oud, the smell of which allows one to experience real Arabian culture. Oud is burned in an elegant ritual that continues till today as a symbol of warm hospitality.

Mohammad Al-Majed was burning oud woodchips in a bronze scent burner (known as a mabkharah) in front of a perfume store in Riyadh. Al-Majed has been an oud salesman for more than 40 years. “I have inherited this business from my father,” said Al-Majed, as he burned more chips in his shiny metal-plated mabkharah. As a little boy, Al-Majed used to watch his father employ certain techniques to identify good quality oud. “It is not easy to do this,” he said, “because that there are many types of commercial oud that have recently overran the market.”

Al-Majed pointed out that there are many ways to distinguish between original and false oud. “Break the oud chip and compare the color of the interior to the exterior. If one is lighter this means it’s fake. Put the oud chip in water. If it floats, then it is totally wood, which means it’s fake,” he added.

The Gulf market is considered the biggest oud importer, according to a business report released in 2008. People in the Gulf use two-thirds of oud produced in the world. Saudi Arabia alone consumes 60 percent of what is produced for the Gulf market. Oud is used as part of celebrations following Ramadan and Haj as well as on weddings and on Fridays. There are many types of oud derived from the insides of huge tropical trees found in the dense forests of Indonesia and others country. Oud takes 300 years to form in the trunks of trees. Since the oud tree is not grown anywhere except in limited parts of Asia, the price of the wood and its oil extracts remains high. Al-Majed talked about the most popular oud in the Saudi market, clemantan, which is Indonesian. There is also another Indonesian type called eriane, which is frequently used in marriages and at large events. There is also the Malaysian type, which smells nice but is weak when compared to others. However, the best type of oud is the Indian category, but this is rare to get by because of Indian government restrictions on its import. Rich people in Saudi Arab prefer loose, which is a luxurious type of oud. The Cambodian variety is very popular in Gulf Arab countries and so is the jawi type, which has a strong smell that remains for a long time. There was thick scented smoke coming from Mazen Al-Dosarys’ shop. “That’s Cambodian,” he said, referring to the oud he was burning. Al-Dosary said that the price of oud varied according to its kind. 

“The oil of oud can be easily transported and does need heat energy to be used like frankincense,” he said.

Its strong fragrance stays on clothes for long periods and fills the air with a nice smell that dispels all kinds of odors around it. Al-Mohaideb said oud oil, mixed with raw ambergris and musk, is also used in the treatment of certain diseases. He added that the demand for perfumes with a mix of oud has increased and that he searches for the best mixes due to popular demand. People demand oud more than French, Swiss, or Spanish perfumes.

Many perfume shops produce their own mixes, naming them after famous Gulf personalities. Many companies have become famous due to their expertise in mixing Oud and also run advertisement campaigns in the media.


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