Omani women refreshing clothing with frankincense smoke

The website of the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center has a number of interesting online pages. One of these is a pictorial history of frankincense and myrrh. Here are some of the tidbits about both of these important trade items:

• Almost all frankincense comes from western Oman, where it is used for everything from deodorant and toothpaste to food and drink flavoring.
• Frankincense and myrrh were so expensive in Europe that southern Arabia became known as Arabia Felix, “Arabia the Blessed.”
• Because frankincense was in high demand from Europe to Asia, the kingdoms of southern Arabia became an integral part of global economy with shipping connections to India, the Mediterranean and the Silk Road.
• Some of the earliest uses of the camel as a domesticated beast of burden took place in southern Arabia in order to make overland transport of frankincense and myrrh possible.
• The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Israelites and numerous other cultures used frankincense and myrrh as part of their religious ceremonies.
• Frankincense and myrrh were extensively used in burial rituals as an embalming material, an offering to the departed and a means to cover the odor of the dead body.
• The Roman emperor, Nero, burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress.
• Frankincense has traditionally been used as a remedy for a wide variety of afflictions, including ulcers, hypertension, nausea, fever, indigestion, chest coughs and post-childbirth recovery.
• The smoke from burning frankincense drives away mosquitoes and other flying insects, reducing incidences of malaria in afflicted regions.
• Myrrh is also used medicinally to treat sore throats, cramps, inflammation, colic and digestive problems.