The most famous and iconic perfume in the world is undoubtedly Chanel No.5 created by Ernest Beaux for Coco Chanel in the early 1920’s. Although the perfume culture didn’t reach Europe until the 12th century AD, for most, nowadays putting it on is part of a daily routine. Known for her elegance and love for luxury, Coco Chanel has multiple quotes about perfumes, but what she believed remains true today: “No elegance is possible without perfume. It is the unseen, unforgettable, ultimate accessory.” A lesson that must have been engraved in all Middle Easterners minds since birth… because if there are two things they’re known for all over the world is their love for fragrance and being experts at it but mostly their effortless elegance especially when it comes to the women. However, in the Gulf not only do modern fragrances such as the one stated above is not as valuable but for most people in this region, Westerners have it all wrong! Because when it comes to perfumes, something that’s always been part of the Muslim culture, the secret lies in layering. The layering of oils, bokhour and mixed fragrances of extracted spices, flowers, oud and musk just to name a few. It’s a practice that we can trace all the way down to Prophet Mohammed, as it is highly recommended in Islam. Perfume must never be refused and is ultimately part of being clean and taking care of oneself.
However, scents have been around for much longer than that; it dates back to more than five thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. They used to crush flower petals with their bare hands to extract the oil, mix it all also by hand, a method that is still used today but is evidently costly due to all the demand. Another way is to crush the various flowers and spices in wooden pressing machines, but in the UAE the process is done by automated machines due to excessive demand of both locals and tourists. In the Dubai Mall only, there are tons of stores where you can find many fragrances of solely Arabic flavors such as “Arabian Oud.” The perfumes are divided into collections and can even be bought online.
But in regards to the use of fragrances as a beauty regime, it has been around as long as researchers can tell in some of earliest human civilizations. In the Bible, Frankincense is one of the main ingredients of incense, and was one of the priciest items during the trade period, and even more valuable than Bahraini pearls and Chinese silk, and was carried around by camel caravans through secret routes. According to The National, priests were the first essences and used to burn incense to connect humans with God. It was afterwards refined by Romans and Persians. Modern Perfumery didn’t begin until the 19th century although the pioneer of it all, scientist, Abu Yusuf Yaqub bin Ishaaq al-Kindi, founded the Arabic Perfume industry, 10 centuries prior. Knowing that it comes to no surprise that Khaleejis are the biggest spenders per capita on luxury perfumes in the world, first because they know their stuff and actually pay attention and interest to every single ingredient put in each bouquet. Details are important, and that’s why perfume connaisseurs can spend hours testing around with different scents.
Since 2015, the perfume industry has known countless growth in sales and is set to be worth more than 92 billion dollars by 2024. An industry that will continue to thrive since as of last year it was worth 38.8 billion dollars. According to those facts, it’s only natural that brands such as Tom Ford, Bvlgari, and Armani would make entire collections strictly for the Middle East. But because they are aware of the importance of the perfume heritage in the culture, and something that has always been associated to luxury, western brands such as Dolce Gabbana, the ones stated before and even KKW Fragrance have included Oud and Musk as ingredients, to capitalize in this fast-growing market.
By Anne-Isabelle Saint-Pierre