Our ancestors have passed down to us valuable items, both physically and intellectually. From their knowledge of science and medicine to beauty and lifestyle; we oftentimes look to the past to form a deeper understanding of a topic, or even to connect to the earlier humans. The Ancient Egyptians are one of the many civilizations that have intrigued us, modern people. How did they live? How were they like us? And how were they different?
One way the Ancient Egyptians were similar to us, was in their innate sense of smell. Nobody likes to be surrounded by bad odor, and those early people were just the same. Though they did not discover the use of incense, or bakhoor as it is known in some regions, they are amongst the first to have recorded their use of it and even transported it to other parts of the world; mainly Greece and Rome. The Egyptians used bakhoor not only to keep malodorous stenches away, but they also believed it served a higher purpose. They believed it kept away demons and bad spirits. It is also known that the Ancient Egyptians valued their physical and facial appearance, having been known to apply creams and oils to protect their skin, as well as Kohl or pigments for cosmetic purposes. Both men and women of all classes partook in this, and perfume was just as important to them. They would mix ingredients together and rub them onto their skin as a form of deodorant, while wealthier people would apply aromatic blends as perfume. Some have also said that women would apply specific scents to attract men. To them, bakhoor was not just a perfume or luxury, but a necessity, with its purposes ranging from lifestyle to even medicinal; believing it healed snake bites, cured asthma, and even bad breath.
The Ancient Egyptians did not limit their choices of incense to one or two types. Though they did burn the more commonly used resin, a substance extracted from tree barks, records show that during the time of Thutmose II, both Ihmut and Green “Galbanum“ were burned and used. Another type that may have been used was Jb, which the Ancient Egyptians would inscribe a young goat to refer to; this leads many historians to believe that it was based on musk. They also burned a variety called Kyphi in their temples as a form of worship to their idols during the Old Kingdom. Kyphi was also used as a perfume, one of the most popular and expensive, and was made from a blend of frankincense, myrrh, pine resin, cinnamon, saffron, juniper, mint, mastic, and other herbs and spices. The Egyptians weren’t shy of using imported materials from both Africa and Asia either, as many of the ingredients of Kyphi were not local. For a less costly scent: cedarwood, roses, lotuses, and other flowers were amongst the many aromatic plants used, and were sometimes even mixed into custom blends. They would burn their ground up bakhoor materials on hot coal, just like we do, for the perfume to spread.
It is not clear where exactly bakhoor originated from, or if it originated from one place at all. It is, however, clear that ancient civilizations –more specifically the Pharos– believed in valuing the luxuries in life that made it a little more complete. They did not simply live interesting lives, work, or learn; but realized that comfort was a necessity in order to do so and sought it through beautiful and colorful scents. At Amir Oud, we share that same belief. It is wonderful to know that we share the same humanity one of the greatest civilizations did too.