What smells so good?

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arab fragrances shop
An Arabic couple checking out some traditional Arab fragrances at a shop. Photo - Guardian

By Dina Kobeissi

If you visit any department store these days and ask for the latest fragrances of famous brands, you’ll find sooner rather than later that these smells are leaning towards oriental scents; with Oudh, musk and bukhoor as their bases.

I know it may sound like a cliche, but for some reason this makes me feel so proud.

On the 26th and 27th of September, the Middle East Fragrance Summit was held here in Dubai.

Leading figures from the fragrances industry, representing several international associations, gathered in Dubai to discuss the rising demand and interest in Arabic fragrances. And I felt like, FINALLY, the West likes something about us.

This got me thinking about our contributions, as Arabs, in today’s world. I know it may not be much in comparison with Western
input, but to able to set a global trend in scents, fragrances or fashion, to me, is very original.

The achievements of Elie Saab did in the fashion world; with Hollywood celebrities wearing and flaunting his clothes, can and may be interpreted as a global talent to be proud of.

Basically, we can safely say that we do, in Arab world, have a distinctive trend that no matter how much we imitate the West is
still imprinted with us.

For instance, anyone who has visited the UAE in particular, or the Arab world in general, would tell you that there’s an overall fragrance to the people that is so unique to them; and slowly over time, this scent can be distinguished between million others.

You should try this exercise when passing through a mall. Walk into a shop and you’ll directly know if an Arab has been there. Try it!

While I discussed this matter with a friend of mine, rambling about this achievement, she disagreed with me and left me with some food for thought.

“I still don’t think’they (the Western world) like anything about us. They simply ran out of new scents to try and figured why not go with something our society doesn’t know about and launch it,” she argued. “The Arab world contributes to a huge proportion of their sales figures. Hence, it only makes sense if they give us something that we’re used to,” my friend continued.

She cited the example of a simple Oudh essence (the real deal) which is sold for thousands of dirhams in the UAE alone. “Why wouldn’t any brand try to get a big slice from this pie?” she asked which made me wonder…

I asked my other friend her opinion about Arabian fragrances. Surprisingly, she gave me a similar opinion. “They’re out of new things to offer their markets so they took a risk and went ahead with it. Besides, the Arabs command a leading position in the world of fragrances,” she said.

Although these opinions are logical and they make much more sense than my romantic thoughts. However, I still think it is an achievement.

Why does a simple summit, about a field of which we are pioneers, create such skepticism about our roles on a global level, and makes my friends doubt their real intentions? I wonder…

Is our self esteem so low that we think even this move is not because we’re the real deal, but because they’ll get something out of it? I wonder.

The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect Arabian Gazettes editorial policy.

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