There's smoke seeping out from beneath the hem of Raya Al Alwy's abaya. It rises in gentle whorls, circles her hijab like an aura and evaporates on the hot air. She lifts her dress and steps aside to reveal beneath its folds a mabkhara – a frankincense burner – billowing with clouds of perfume. Article by Catherine Marshall of The Financial Review

"This is the quick way to smell good," she laughs, flushed with the diffidence of someone who's revealed an intimate secret.

When there's time to spare, she says, the women drape their abayas over the mabkhara before dressing, washing the fibres in its steamy, intoxicating scent.

"We have frankincense in our houses every day," she says. "We need to burn it!"

Such is the exaltation of perfume in Oman, a parched, empty, inhospitable landscape from which some of the world's most prized scents are miraculously conjured. Frankincense trees cram the wadis that trail off into the deserts north of Salalah, in Oman's southern Dhofar region, like emeralds spaced apart on a drab necklace. The most impressive of these oases, Wadi Dawka, is part of Oman's UNESCO World Heritage-listed Land of Frankincense.

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