On visiting the UAE, and even the Greater Arab World, you will notice the predominance of scent overpowering you whether from burners or actually perfume itself. The concept of smell is an important part of society and is used under various guises. Many people wonder what the smell actually is, and so we have given you a basic understanding about what it is all about.
There are essentially two types of perfume, oud and bukhoor. Oud is basically wood that has a certain smell to it and in its purest form is used as a kind of perfume for both men and women. Pure Oud will be burned to make the clothes smell from the smoke that it emanates. The issue that Arabs face is that they do not wish to stain their clothes, especially the whiter than white kanduras or dish dashes which would be ruined by oil. There are other types of oud which do contain oil. But Oud to the common eye looks like small pieces of wood, and originally comes from India. Bukhoor is a mixture of scents all together and usually looks like round pieces of coal about the size of your thumb. This sort of scent is used to burn in the home and perhaps you have smelt it burning in the malls.
To burn either of these, you would need an oud or bukhoor burner, commonly termed as a medhan, coal, and some sort of tongs to handle the coals. You will also need a fire burner or lighter of some sort. Oud burners can also be powered these days by electricity, but the purist will tell you that this doesn't give the smell the justice it derserves. It does mean that you don't need the coal though!
Bukhoor or oud could be a good present or a memory of your time here, and many people ask what they need to buy or how much they cost. As a general estimate, this is what you need to know when purchasing:
- Oud, itself is relatively expensive and could cost anything from AED1,000 to AED40,000 a pot
- For the same amount of bukhoor, you would pay between AED100 and AED500
- The Medhhan costs anything from AED50 to AED500, but you can get very expnsives ones which are made of pure gold or silver! Expect to pay about AED50 more if you want it powered by electicity. You can usually get the tongs thrown in.
- The coal is very cheap, and you may choose to buy these back home. The "magic coals" which are superior quality, last for longer and will not die cost about AED50 for a small box, and should last you a long time.
- A lighter will cost you AED30, but the expensive shops will try and sell this to you for about AED100.
You can purchase your bukhoor from many different shops in the souks, depending on what you like. Well known stores that sell in the malls are Ajman, Al Rassassi or Arabian Oud. These will usually provide you with the best quality available. Be sure to smell a wide variety of the scents to decide on what you like.
In addition, you could purchase something called Al Misk, which is similar to a body lotion. It looks like a cream, and you can add water to it and spray it on your body.
For those of you who prefer the traditional scents, Dubai can provide some cut price after shaves and perfumes. If you don't mind the tester bottles, a substantial saving can be made on the retail price. Be wary though of purchasing from the markets, though, as you may be purchasing more toilet water than eau de toilette.
You can't ignore the common scents that exist when visiting the UAE, whether you get a waft when someone walks past or you smell it as you walk past some of the stores. If you do decide to purchase any as a memento, make sure you shop around to find exactly the smell that you like. Taking some Arabic perfume back home with you means bringing some culture to your next dinner party that is sure to be a great talking point about your time in the sandlands.