Article in brief: visiting an Oud factory proved that so much more care and effort are poured into little vials of perfume than previously imagined.
As the metal gate was heavily pulled aside for my car to enter, the setting of a factory was predictably revealed before me, however, the contents and happenings contained inside it were anything but predictable. As I pulled up between warehouse structures sitting across from each other, I was already excited to see what their exteriors contained within. “Ajmal”, one of the leading oud and perfume companies, had generously agreed to show a friend and me around their factory; to catch a glimpse of how the beloved scents that we grew up with are produced.
The first structure that we were guided through housed the process of extracting the oud oil from the wood. Large machinery is utilized for the process of extraction, which can take up to thirty-five days. The oil sits atop a volume of water, and is later contained into small Dihn Oud bottles.
From there we crossed over to another space that contained the wood grading. We were exposed to a fine selection of wood, and witnessed that as it was placed on coal, inside an Arabic incense burner, the oil contained in the wood surfaced and bubbled up as a reaction to the heat.
Coming down from the wood grading part of the factory, we were faced with a machine that was competing with the length of the warehouse that surrounded it. This machine takes the remainder of the wood from the oud tree and reduces it to powder, which is then turned into the Dukhoon powder used to produce incense.
Not a fragment from the tree is wasted as every part of it is salvaged to produce an array of mesmerizing scents. Before leaving the factory, a fact I was previously unaware of was brought to our attention; only trees of a diseased nature (that have been affected by a specific type of bacteria) can produce oud. There have been attempts to inject healthy trees of the same kind with those bacteria, but the artificial method failed in comparison to the natural one. Since Ajmal cares profusely about quality, they ensure that they follow the natural route.
Note: I would like to extend special and immense gratitude to Ajmal for revealing sensitive information about their most prized product, and allowing me to publish about it.
Moza Almatrooshi is an Emarati artist and designer. After attaining a BA from Zayed University Dubai in Interior Design in June 2013, Moza began her journey in trying to find a place in the creative industry in the UAE, starting with catching a plane to Italy to intern in the UAE Pavilion in the Venice Art Biennale 2013. Since then Moza has dabbled in several experiences such as architecture, design, event planning, art exhibitions, and writing for independent publications. Moza continues to journey through life, art, and design.
With mass production sweeping the globe, artisanal talents struggle to retain relevancy. This column celebrates the beauty and human value added to a product that is created with skilled hands.