What is Bakhoor?

by Zajil Abuhamra


What Is Bakhoor

            First off, it must be noted that Bakhoor has some of the most pleasant smells in Aroma Therapy that one can experience.  It can be used for meditation, scenting up a house and in some parts of the world it is used to spread smoke throughout the living space, causing a cold home to become warmer and cozier.  It is used during ceremonies, weddings, holidays and at times of death.  It is for celebrations, honoring people and the welcoming of guests into the home.  Others use it to fragrant their clothes while some find it beneficial in the dispelling of insects.   Many shops throughout the Middle East will use Bakhoor to attract buyers into their stores by burning the best scented Bakhoor and letting the smoke drift out to the street as people walk by, sparking up the interest of potential buyers.

Bakhoor can be the Arabic equivalent to the word Incense.  There are many different types and varieties mainly imported out from the Arabic world to the rest of us.  Bakhoor has been around for thousands of years on known records, dating as far back as ancient Egypt, Babylonia and China.   

            Bakhoor is not your typical incense on a stick that you light with a flame.  The way it works is by breaking off pieces of the incense, and burning those pieces on a secondary source of heat rather than direct contact with the flame or fire.  This is an Indirect Burning method.  The main way that Bakhoor is burned is on a charcoal.  Typically an instant light charcoal can be used to initiate a quick burn of the coal.  Once the coal turns white or an ashy gray color, the Bakhoor can be pieced off bit by bit and added to the burning coal.  In this way, the amount of Incense used can be controlled, burning as much or as little of it that may be needed for the occasion. 

 Once heated, a light smoke of fragrance is released and within that smoke therein lies the sweet aromatic scents of the many different oils used to make the Bakhoor

The coal can be placed on special holders called “Mabkharas” which are typically made out of clay or ceramic (As seen in the photo above).  There are many festive ones out there as well as some that are plain and get the job done.  There are also more modern forms that can connect to an outlet and uses electricity instead of coals to burn the incense.  But most people prefer the coals.  This gives it a more organic scent and feel to the experience.

There are many types of Bakhoor along with different recipes of making it. People who make Bakhoor though keep those recipes close to heart, never revealing their ingredients or methods.   

There are some forms that come in different powdered version that breaks off easily.  These can be scooped with a spoon or pinched onto the coal.  There’s other forms called Mamul which are similar to the powdered forms.  These come in balls and circular shapes or tablets that are a bit firmer than the ones above.  There is also the form that comes in wood chips also called “Oud”.  These are all made with similar techniques, with the use of combined scented oils to soak the medium in, which it turn gives off the pleasant fragrance once burned. 
Then there are the natural occurring organic incense that are found in nature that can be added to these Bakhoor mixtures as mentioned above.  Or they can be burned individually which is usually the case.  Frankincense, which is also known as Yemeni Bakhoor Luban (Loban) can be seen as being one of these examples

Bakhoor come in many different varieties of scents as well.  Some may have a woody smell that comes from Argarwood, (a rare and expensive type of wood that many Bakhoor is made with).  This is called “Oud” which means wood in Arabic.  Some other Bakhoor have a fruity smell or a flowery smell to them while others have a perfumed smell or a spicy scent.  Then there’s all the combinations in between.  It all depends on the person using the Bakhoor.  Regardless of the choice of scent or form of Bakhoor or the time in history, Bakhoor is still the best way to relax and enjoy the aromas of the ages.   It calms the nerves, eases the soul and relaxes the body’s tensions.  It’s Bakhoor!  Enjoy it, you deserve it!

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