Rose-scented mem­o­ries of Oman

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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.

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