A sweet-smelling tour: inside among the UAE’s oldest fragrance and bakhoor factories

Nestled in a peaceful alleyway in a brimming commercial estate in Sharjah you will find the factory of one of the UAE’s very first fragrance makers.

When you stroll through the doors of Swiss Arabian, the sweet smell of amber, jasmine and oud strikes you.

The components are sourced from worldwide, including patchouli from Malaysia, vanilla from Madagascar and oud from India and the Far East, but the family-run organization works its magic to “make them Arabian”.

The tree is contaminated by a fungi or mold, then will in some cases produce its defence mechanism, which is a type of resin, and that is where the oil originates from

Nader Adam Ali, Swiss Arabian

The factory was founded in 1974 by Yemeni perfumer Hussein Adam Ali. He relocated to the UAE from Yemen with the dream of producing a range of perfumes.

Today, he has taken an action back from business and handed the reins over to his kid, Nader Adam Ali.

” I have a lot of fond memories of assisting in the factory as a young boy,” Mr Adam Ali, who was born in Yemen, informed The National.

” I was about 6 years old and would sit alongside the production line and by hand cellophane cover each perfume bottle, and pack and fill boxes.

” When I would see the products sitting happily on shelves in shops, I would point and state, I helped make it. They were fond memories.”

The name Swiss Arabian was formed in acknowledgment of its longstanding partnership with Swiss business Givaudan.

Mr Adam Ali’s dad began trading Swiss perfumes in Yemen in the 1960 s.

When he sailed to the UAE, he changed from trading into producing, which is where the Swiss-Arabic infusion derived.

Today, the company produces 120 items across eight classifications and manufactures about 3.5 million bottles of fragrances, oils, creams and bakhoor boxes monthly.

Components from far and wide

The company gets its raw ingredients from around the globe.

Oud is obtained from the Aquilaria tree, types of which grow in the mountain rain forests of Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and India.

The fragrant, dark wood used in incense and perfume is formed in the heartwood of Aquilaria trees when they become contaminated with a type of mould.

” The tree is contaminated by a fungus or mould, then will in some cases produce its defence mechanism, which is a kind of resin, which is where the oil comes from,” Mr Adam Ali said.

” Nowadays we generally purchase through providers, however back in the day we utilized to own parts of the forests and draw out the oils ourselves, however it’s a really specialised business.”

The business has four warehouses that span 35,000 square metres.

Oud, rose, musk and sandalwood are typically used in high concentration in standard and contemporary Arabian scents.

For ts premium items, the company purchases pure oils from Turkey, Bulgaria and Saudi Arabia. These can cost approximately Dh100,000 a kilogram, while the artificial essences are priced at about Dh1,000 a kilogram.

A selection of some of the perfumes manufactured by Swiss Arabian. Pawan Singh / The National 
A choice of a few of the fragrances manufatured by Swiss Arabian. Pawan Singh/ The National.

Hand-rolled bakhoor

The bakhoor area of the factory is a little room in front of the building and there is a various range on each production line.

About 6 workers sit stooped over a metal table and supervise of hand-rolling bakhoor tablets.

Bakhoor are wood chips that have been taken in fragrance oil and are mixed with other natural ingredients, such as natural resin, sandalwood and fundamentals oils.

In this factory, the bakhoor tablets, which are frequently burnt in Emirati homes or at perfume stands in shopping malls, are made from oud dust.

” The primary active ingredient of bakhoor is oud dust, which is made from oud wood chips ground down,” Mr Ali said.

” Depending upon the scent, we blend the dust with a mix of vital oils and a binder, such as water, and it’s positioned into a mixer for two to three hours until it forms a kind of paste.

” The binder we use is in fact a secret active ingredient.”

Once the tablets have been rolled– just slightly bigger than a dirham coin– they sit at space temperature for about 15 to 20 days to harden prior to being packed for sale.

The factory produces 15 bakhoor aromas, with prices ranging from Dh50 to Dh150 a box.

Boxes of raw wood chips are very popular.

” Oud muattar is among our signature products, which is the chips soaked in oil,” Mr Adam Ali stated.

A 500 gram bag sells for about Dh350

” Then we have muattar mumtaz, which is of a similar cost and the chips soak in the oil for about 25 days.

” Up to 30 to 40 different oils can be mixed together to make a scent.”

Fragrances such as shaghaf, which is a mix of oud, vanilla, praline, saffron and rose; and gharaam, which is jasmine, amber and saffron remain in high need.

While Mr Adam Ali studied in the United States and had actually prepared a profession in financing, but he states he felt it was his responsibility to take control of when his dad went back from the business.

He plans to broaden the product variety and keep the business running on the “sweet fragrance of success”.

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Post Author: kisded@yahoo.com