Omani World Heritage Sites


The Frankincense Tree and Its Uses

Frankincense trees produce various qualities of resin depending on the climatic and environmental conditions in which they grow, as well as the harvesting period and the skills of the cultivator. Their preferred habitat is in the high arid area behind the monsoon mountains of Dhofar within reach of the cooling winds which blow during the wet season, and a stony soil rich in limestone.

There are four different qualities of frankincense. The finest type is known as “Al-Hojari”, which is harvested during the hottest season; “Annajdi”, produced in the months following the monsoon; “Ashazri”, from the first cuts of the season; and finally “Asha’bi”, also known as “Assahili”, which is harvested during the coldest season of the year. Al-Hojari comes from trees grown far from the ocean in the dry, elevated regions which are not exposed to fogs and monsoons. Asha’bi is the least precious because the trees grow close to the ocean and are affected by monsoonal rains.

The frankincense tree begins to yield resin eight to ten years after planting, and grows rapidly when located in ideal environments. Its height ranges from three to five meters and it has a single root. Glands of gum resin, which grow in small groups, are located under the bark, which peels away from the tree in the form of bark leaves. The tree’s branches are small and dense, and the leaves grow along their sides. Small blossoms with an aciniform shape gather on the sides of the offshoots. Following the blossoming period, dry seeds turn from green to black and subsequently fall. In ancient times all parts of the tree were used: the underbark as a dye for cotton clothing, the leaves as animal fodder, and the buds, flowers and fruit as a tonic for cleansing the digestive system and for deodorizing the mouth.






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