Middle eastern perfume Source: Vogue Arabia

When we think of perfume, our mind wanders to the streets of Paris with Coco Chanel and her signature Chanel No.5… But before you get carried away, picturing yourself strutting down the Champs-Élysées, we’re here to tell you: you’ve got your location all wrong! The heart of fragrance is actually in the Middle East, more specifically in Ancient Egypt. Initially, fragrance wasn’t used to make you feel sexy or entice your crush, it was used for religious and sacrificial ceremonies, as a status of power and as a sign of wealth. We imagine Cleopatra had a collection to rival perfume princess, Mona Kattan.

However, through the years and the modernization of fragrance, perfume has been ‘watered down,’ literally and symbolically. Well, we’re here to tell you about the revolutionary, unique way fragrance is worn in the Middle Eadst and why you need to wear your perfume the Middle Eastern way too.

The History Of Fragrance

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The Ancient Egyptians have been making perfume as far back as 3,000 BC, and it was originally used by religious figures, who used certain scents to conceal the smell of dead sacrifices – gross we know! They also believed that burning incense brought them closer to the Gods, so to please the gods and to warn off the God of the Underworld, they would burn scent of sweet rush, wine, and juniper.

According to ancient legend, Cleopatra had the sails of her boat soaked in sweet smelling essential oils, so that Mark Antony would be overwhelmed by her scent before even laying eyes on her – girl knew how to play the game! If you’re looking for a sexy scent, check out these fragrances that turn men on… All we’re saying is if one of the most iconic, seductive, and powerful women in history used fragrance to her advantage, it probably works.

The Middle East’s Signature Scent

As you guys have probably guessed, here in the Middle East we don’t mess around when it comes to fragrance. And of course, we couldn’t talk about Middle Eastern fragrances without mentioning the region’s signature scent – oud, which is possibly one of the most intense, luxurious aromas ever.

The potent smell comes from agarwood trees that are infected with a particular type of mold– again, EW! Men typically wear the fragrance independently and women will mix it with scents like rose and jasmine to add a feminine, and seductive flare. Although, a lot of oud fragrances are actually considered unisex. Culturally, the wood is burned as incense as a sign of respect and hospitality when guests enter the house, and powerful Sultans would use it to scent their homes as it has aphrodisiac properties and is said to be one of the most potent essential oils. After dinner, the host family will present a tray of perfumes as the coffee is served, which guests can mix to create a unique scent to bookmark the memory of their visit.

How To Wear Your Perfume The Middle Eastern Way

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In the Middle East, fragrance is very personal, it’s all about layering fragrances so your scent is completely different to anyone else’s – a truly signature scent! Typically, women will start with an oud base as this is the heaviest scent, and it’s traditionally oil-based so it clings to the skin for longer. They then layer lighter fragrances, like orange blossom, jasmine, and rose to infuse their own intoxicating signature scent. This is why simple fragrances are more popular in the Middle East as it allows you to be more experimental when you’re layering your fragrances.

Fragrance Layering 101:

The secret to layering fragrances is to layer them in order of intensity: The base should be an intense fragrance, which is then combined with lighter notes. For example, a base note of oud would complement a middle note of rose, embellished with a top note of jasmine. If you’re a newbie to the practice of layering, we recommend staying within these fragrance families: floral, oriental, fresh, and citrus notes. Although, scents like vanilla, musk, and most citrus scents layer and blend beautifully, so look for fragrances that contain these scents or with a common note, as these will be complementary. Check out our guide:

fragrance layering guide

Some of our favorite pairings include; florals mixed with spicy aromas, wood-based fragrances layered with citrus, and oud layered with floral scents. But whenever you’re layering, always keep these rules in mind:

  • Complex intense fragrances paired with lighter notes create the dreamiest scents.
  • Always spray in order of intensity, with the most intense fragrance first.
  • Remember it’s up to you, so you really just need to experiment until you find the right mix.

Let us know if you’ve ever layered fragrances, and if you have, what’s your favorite combo! Check out Huda and Mona talking about fragrances in the Middle East here and their fave ways of layering fragrance.