Dhofar Province, Oman
One cannot speak about Dhofar without mentioning frankincense. Along with gold and myrrh, it was one of the gifts given by the magi at the birth of Christ. Frankincense is the milky-white resin of the boswellia sacra tree, an unprepossessing scarred and gnarly old thing which nonetheless was the source of the vast wealth of various South Arabian kingdoms for millennia. There are several species of boswellia, but boswellia sacra gives the best resin and it is grown in very few places. Dhofar produces the finest resin of all.
“…they possess incense trees; these have thin leaves, and when a leaf is slashed there drips from it a sap like milk, which then turns into a gum. This gum is the incense, and it is very plentiful there.”
So wrote Ibn Batutta about Hasik whence some consider the best frankincense to come, but it is the trunk which is ‘slashed’ to extract the resin, not the leaves. Clearly he did not see the trees or the harvesting of the incense, but the procedure would have been explained to him and he may have thought it like a euphorbia whose leaves do extrude a kind of sticky, milky substance when cut.
The strange-looking frankincense tree with its divine-smelling resin of medicinal, preservative and, some say, aphrodisiac qualities.