Rose-scented memories of Oman
Oh, the power of persuasive scents. The particular fragrances of a destination can linger long in our memories, well after we have left behind the markets and souks, the flowering gardens and the joss-stick smoke of temples.
I am just back from Oman where the air smells of roses, mint and orange blossoms.
And then there is the revelation of frankincense, that most aromatic of resins.
In Oman, it appears in essential oils, soaps and lotions. In hardened form it’s burned in clay pots in hotels and households and emits a musky, balsamic odour that makes you breathe long and deep.
At the fine-dining Al Angham adjacent to Muscat’s Royal Opera House, there is frankincense ice cream on the menu, which proves a tremendous treat.
I ask for this dessert elsewhere but restaurateurs outside Muscat lower their eyes and suggest I might like rose-flavoured ice cream.
This is hardly a second placegetter for who could resist a confection so suggestive of full summer.
Or would I like a scoop of date, halwa, cardamom or saffron ice cream? Oh, please.
The souks in Oman smell of red and yellow spices; plump, soft dates are heaped in big sacks and look nothing like the dried, packaged variety my family would wheel out in Christmases past.
I always thought they looked like cockroaches and hid them in my Santa serviette, along with those curiously tasteless Brazil nuts that seemed de rigueur come December 25, if for no other reason but to test the chewing ability of our back choppers.
But now I know that a fresh date smoothie, with dollops of yoghurt, is one of the world’s very best drinks.
At the little stalls encircling Nizwa Fort, rose petals are dished up in metal scoops and sold by weight.
Not wanting to clash with the chaps at Sydney customs and quarantine, I resist all temptation to buy, but not so a bottle of rose oud perfume. Open the stopper and out pops the precious essence of Oman.