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From Jesus to oil sheik billionaires

The export of oud may stretch back thousands of years – it is suspected the “aloes” mentioned in the Bible, where it is a favourite fragrance of King Solomon and used to clean Jesus’ body after his crucifixion, referred to Indian agarwood. In the Islamic Hadith, Mohammad said an unspecified type of Indian incense, which may have been agarwood, is an effective medicine for several ailments. Today, it is most popular in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Persian Gulf nations.

A 2010 report filed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) secretariat states agarwood is “a part of the heritage as well as the modern national identity of the UAE”, adding that the oil was used by both genders as a body scent, while the burning of wood chips was an “essential customary practice” for receiving guests.

The report also stated Cambodian agarwood gained popularity in the 1990s, when trees were more common and law enforcement less strict.

“There is a widespread perception among consumers that Cambodian agarwood is the best alternative to that of Indian origin,” states the report.

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