Despite the fact that our living here isn’t necessarily what we had envisaged it to be (at least mine; B.’s much more understanding towards the locals, also because he meets them in a more relaxed context, mainly doing sports with them), we have adopted two Omani traditions which make it a little more bearable: eating dates and burning incense at home.
I must have already written about the fact that dates represent the most basic type of food here and are omnipresent – in banks or offices there is always a bowl of dates on the table. Back in Europe I used to think of dates as a luxury product but now hardly ever do we go without dates at home. Yesterday we bought a two-kilogram box for just under £5 which will hopefully last us for about a month.
Burning incense is as omnipresent in Oman as eating dates. When I first arrived here 6.5 months ago, the first thing I noticed when I went to the University was the overwhelming smell of frankincense. That smell immediately evoked gloomy memories of Polish churches during funerals and for this reason, I didn’t really enjoy it at first. I have got used to it and grown to enjoy it perhaps due to the fact that frankincense-filled corridors always provide refreshing cool from the scorching heat. Besides, apparently frankincense has purifying, stress-relieving, pain-reducing and immunity-boosting properties. In its pure form, it is also edible! This is what is looks like for burning (it’s basically pieces of resin):
Not only frankincense can be burned, but also other types of incense, for example agarwood which has a sweeter, fresher and for this reason more pleasant (in my opinion) fragrance than frankincense. We have bought it in a powder form, which I’m not sure is the best, but at the time I didn’t know what a good type of incense actually is (not that I know very well now either, to be honest).
In order to burn incense at home, you need an incense burner (in the shape of the fancy Aladdin’s magic lamp, for instance, but there are hundreds of types) and charcoal discs (tablets) which you can buy ready-made.
You need to light a charcoal tablet, either with a special lighter, which we don’t own as yet, or put it on a hob of a gas cooker and leave it for a short while. It catches fire very quickly so transfer it into the burner. On top of the tablet, put a small piece of frankincense or a little agarwood (or any other incenses) et voilà! The incense is burning.
It feels very relaxing to burn incense at home particularly in times of heightened anxiety and stress. Every little helps, I guess…