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Scent and Identity: How Arabic perfumes reflect cultural expressions

by Peacock Bazaar Team 13 Sep 2023
How Arabic perfumes reflect cultural expressions


Perfumes and scents have always played an important role through the ages and civilisations. Ancient Egypt, the Roman Empire, the Mesopotamian Empire, and the Persian Empire, all have records of the use of fragrances and scents as symbols of cleanliness, hygiene, nobility, ceremonial use, and as a mark of respect when given as gifts. As with signature fragrances, Arabic perfumes evoke an impression of their origins; with their precious traditional ingredients of jasmine, oud, musk, and amber, they immediately take you on an adventure of scents that reflect Arab culture.

History of Arabian perfumes 

Ancient Arabia refined the art of perfumes and became a major centre for production and trade during the mediaeval period. Traders would travel the world, collecting raw materials such as spices and aromatic plants to create unique scents. These were highly valued for both religious and personal use and were much sought after across the globe. These perfumes were distinct for their earthy and long-lasting complex notes, providing pure authenticity, which makes them distinct in the world of perfumes. The word perfume is derived from the Latin word ‘per fumas’ meaning through smoke, a nod to the origins of perfume making. Arabian perfumes are alcohol-free which is why they use sandalwood oil as a base. 

Cultural Heritage of Arabian Perfume

The Arabs use alchemy and the art of distillation to extract the essential oils, known as Attar, for their base notes in their perfumes. Fragrant woods, herbs, spices, and/or flowers are carefully steam-distilled into a resin base of sandalwood oil. Through this method, they can extract the pure essence concentrate of the fragrance, or attar, which is the fragrance in oil form. These perfumes capture the essence of the Middle East and are highly prized for their unique, complex notes that include delicious scents of saffron, incense, nutmeg, and pink pepper, among others.

This tradition is carried into the manufacturing process of modern-day Arabian fragrances. Oud is a fragrant oil that is synonymous with Arabian perfume. It is extracted from tree resin and provides a sensual, dry woody aroma that is rich and used as a signature base note. Today, oud perfumes are associated with the aroma that lingers along alleyways and in houses in the Middle East. For the ancient Arabians, a perfume offered a journey into emotions and memories. 

Arabic perfumes of today

Arabic perfumes of today do not only smell good but they also tell a story. Continuing the tradition of the ancient art of perfumery, perfumes from the Middle East are ingrained in the culture and history of their origins. This is why perfumery is considered part of the Middle Eastern cultural heritage. Arabic perfumes are elegant and fresh, with choices for both daywear and nightwear, from elements of fun to moments of seduction. 

Perfumed aromatic oils, floral and woody essences along with a touch of spice is how Arabic perfumes have become associated with luxury fragrance and is much sought after by luxury fragrance brands.

Tips on the best way to wear Arabic perfumes

  • Arabic perfumes are all about the story, setting the mood and atmosphere. Choose your perfume according to the occasion and immerse yourself in the pleasure of enjoying the beautiful fragrance.
  • If you are going for a daytime event, pick a floral or fruity scent, and for the evening, opt for a woody or musky fragrance to permeate the evening air.
  • These perfumes are strong and long-lasting so a little goes a long way. Choose strategic points, such as your pulse points, to dab a little so that it will last right throughout the day or your night out. 
  • Use the perfumes on unscented skin to keep the integrity of the scent and to avoid over-layering. Avoid perfumed shower gels or lotions so that the fragrance can truly work its magic on your skin.
  • It is important to find the right combination of scents for you. Our skin reacts differently to different scents, so experiment and find out which one suits you the best. 


When you choose to wear Arabic perfumes, you are choosing to go on a beautiful journey. Those with whom you interact will be surrounded by the deep and satisfying aroma of spices, flowers, and sandalwood. These perfumes are unique and are sought after for their natural scents that linger beautifully within signature aromas. 

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