Oman’s Muttrah souq: The burning vesta of resins

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This is the second post dedicated to Oman’s adventure and involves pictures, scents, tastes, memories from one of Oman’s oldest and most historical souqs ( traditional market) called the Muttrah Souq or else Al Dhalam (darkness) for locals. Muttrah and in extension its Souq, was the centre of Oman’s trade and commercial activities way before the discovery of oil.

The souq has two main entrances, one in the front side of the corniche, watching the Sultan Qaboos Port and another at the back side, connected with the Mutrah high street, which is located between houses, a police station and plenty of small shops.

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Muttrah Souq is a point of reference for the Omani families, who run into it looking from household goods, to shoes, garments, knitting and sewing tools and accessories.

Needless to mention the countless tiny stores and autonomous sellers (mainly located in the narrow side streets) selling the best frankincense quality from Salalah, oud and bukhoor and a variety of unique perfume oils.

In the souq I also found silver jewelry with precious stones (mainly turquoise, lapis lazuli and more), mbakhar from clay and electrical mbakhar for burning bukhoor, oud and olibanium and khanjars, the traditional Omani daggers.

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My personal shopping experience involved lots of frankincense from Al Mahri corner shop, right at the end of the souq (he has the best price in market) and bukhoor named “Oud al Shams” from a shop called Arabian. Even though it was August, my trip to the Souq ended up with a pleasant surprise: it rained!

Enjoy the post!!!

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Mission to Oman’s treasure: Amouage

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1st of August found me in the most exotic, beautiful and less advertised country of the Arabian Gulf, Oman. Despite the little time I had in my possession to explore Arabia’s, Africa’s and India’s crossroad, Muscat, I made sure to include first in my scheduale –for my nose and your eyes only- a name synonymous to Oman: the headquarters of the House of Amouage.

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Amouage in Arabic means waves. Amouage in Perfumery means the waves of emotions. Ever since 1983, when the Perfume House was founded by His Highness Sayed Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi, a senior member of the Omani Royal family and established by Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Amouage is inspiring and crafting exceptional fragrances in regal quality.

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At the moment Amouage operates three major global offices, in Kuala Lumpur- Malaysia, Muscat- Oman and London- United Kingdom and three sales offices in Dubai –UAE, Riyadh- Saudi Arabia and Doha- Qatar. Behind the wheel we find Mr. David Crickmore as CEO and Mr. Cristopher Chong as Creative Director for the company.

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The Initial Tour

At first, an Omani Mademoiselle named Ameerah toured me around the raw ingredients organ and got me to know all about Amouage’s fleet.

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Raw materials

Sourcing materials for Amouage is an exclusively French job. French buyers have undertaken the responsibility of tracking and buying raw materials for the House, which uses more than 120 natural ingredients.

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Frankincense is one of the most commonly used materials in Amouage’s fragrances. Our French friends buy the resin from Salalah, which has a rich incense trading history since 13th century. There is the house of the most rare and purest species of all kinds of olibanium. Frankincense is not only a common ingredient to use in perfumes, but also to burn in bukhoor for houses and several religious activities.

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Myrrh and Roses are also widely used in Amouage perfumes and they are being sourced from Oman’s Jebel Akhdar area. More specifically, the essence of the rare, Omani rock rose – a flower found across Jebel Akhdar’s mountain range- is used in “Gold”.

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The bottles

Omani as it is, Amouage wanted to provide a tangible memory along with its Arabic “flavour”. The bottles and caps reminisce familiar Omani symbols: men fragrances the shape of Khanjar, the traditional Omani dagger and women fragrances the dome and shape of Ruwi mosque, in Muscat.

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Timeline of existing perfumes

1983

Amouage’s first launch came in 1983 and was “Gold”, an ultra sexy, very long lasting and timeless scent for women, by well-known perfumer Guy Robert. That very first juice was hosted in pure French crystal bottle, which was dressed in 24-carat gold plated decorations.

90’s

1995: Amouage launched “Ubar” commemorating the lost city of Ubar, near Salalah, in Oman.

1998: Gold’s male pair was created 15 years after, by Guy himself with only two extra notes: oakmoss and patchouli.

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00’s

2002: -the floral, aldehydic and matching with Gold, “Dia” (female and male versions).

– “Silver” for men.

2003: the cool, fresh and full of gardenia “Ciel” (female and male versions).

2007:

-The sharp, green or powdery (men’s), light floral “Reflection” (female and male versions).

-“Jubilation 25” for women and “Jubilation XXV” for men. This is the turning point in Amouage’s creations as it is the mark of the beginning of storylines for future launches and Christopher Chong’s undertaking of duties as Creative Director. Jubilation was created in honour of Amouage’s 25 years of existence.

2008: “Lyric” (female and male versions). Lyric is full of roses in both versions and “tells” the story of lyric music. Lyric is also a direct implication to Mr. Chong’s past as a Baritone.

2009: “Epic” (female and male versions).  Epic is such a theatrical and unique scent! Epic creations celebrate the legendary trade routes of Silk Road, from China to Arabia.

2010’s

2010: my favourite “Memoir” (female and male versions).  . The perfumes celebrate the black swan story and the endless dramatic narratives of woman and man chronicles.

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2011: “Honour” was created to honour the tragic story of Madame Butterfly. (female and male versions).

2012:

-“Beloved” for women, my second favourite from this line of Amouage.

-“Interlude” (female and male versions), came giving a symbolic meaning to humanity. Interlude is another indirect reference to Mr. Chong’s Lyric past and a direct reference to what the world’s needs: a break from all this destruction and misery.

2013:

-“Fate” (amazing female and male versions).  Fate is the swan song of Amouage’s storylines and the call to take our lives in our hands and strive for the best with whatever means we have.

-Beloved for men.

The Library Collection

In 2010, Amouage introduced us the “Library Collection”. It is a line with a sense of exclusivity and I dare to say, deeper, challenging and more complex scents, for demanding noses. The library collection is Mr. Chong’s personal bet and has hosted different Perfumers for each creation. Opus I to IV, were launched all in 2010. Since then Amouage releases one Opus per year. 17

50% of Opus IV global sales go to the National HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program (NAP) in Oman, an initiative supported by the Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation, United Nations Children’s Fund and United Nations Population Fund.

Opus III and Opus IV drive me nuts! Opus III has a light flowery scent and it strongly reminds me of Guerlain’s Insolence, when the middle notes are in charge. On the other hand, Opus IV has a magical, authentic olibanium scent. I appreciate Opus II and Opus VI as well. The first evolves into a crispy, yet spicy beautiful aroma and the second, smells mostly of oud.

The Factory

Menjie, Sales Associate and Amouage connoisseur for more than 10 years toured me around the manufacturing area and the gift shop.

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On the left you can see the Initial Perfume Organ, that was used during the first years of Amouage.

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Enfleurage. This is an initial, traditional process, during which flowers and plants are placed on odourless vegetable fat (3 tones each time) in room temperature, to capture the fragrant compounds. Absolute is a product of enfleurage.

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Distillation process involves strictly petals and water.

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Chilling machine contains 22% of concentrate.

In 1983, Amouage had only 6 tanks in possession to make only its 4 different kinds of perfumes. It is significant that all filling was done manually.

Today, the perfumes are created in Grasse, France and spend the last process of manufacture (the maceration) and bottling in Amouage’s factory in Oman. Maceration lasts from 6 to 8 weeks.

Production

Amouage produces maximum 2500-3000 bottles daily. Depending on the demand, the production can reach 5000-10000 bottles daily.

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Absolutes and perfumes are being bottled and packaged in Oman, while creams, soaps and lotions in France.

The gift shop

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Leather goods

Impressively, Amouage sells outstanding leather goods as well. Leather is Italian cow skin and the goods are made in Italy. In particular, Amouage’s leather goods are made in the same factory that produces the Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo products.

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My Shopping

Shopping in Amouage factory was an undoubtedly pleasant experience, thinking of all the variety, benefit of playing around endlessly, Menjie’s helpful assistance and a complimentary 10% discount one has at the end of the day! Keep at the back of your mind though that Amouage’s corner shop at Omani Airport offers an even greater discount. My shopping costed originally 73 Omani Riyals. After discount I paid 65 O.R. and I received plenty of Amouage perfumes samples, which I will review soon.

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I bought the “Dia” super luxurious, perfumed cream in jar for my mum, which she adores using since 2009. It smells exactly like Dia for women and it has great longevity. It also compliments perfectly her beloved perfume, Coco Chanel. Original price was 38 O.R.

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For myself, I got the Memoir perfume in solid wax. I wear it for over a month now and I am totally happy with its scent, even though its sillage and longevity are pretty weak. I use it to refresh throughout the day- something like a scent booster! Original price was 35 O.R.

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The factory is located in Muscat’s Al Seeb area, near to the airport. Below you can have a look at the map and driving instructions, provided to me by the company.

Amouage location map

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Amouage’s corner shop at Oman’s Al Seeb airport

Wrapping up my experience I can only confirm of what I saw and sniffed:

Amouage IS the gift of kings!

Tan nuances

In this part of Earth’s hemisphere, Summer is on its peak!

Beaches are busy, nightlife is at its best, the moon is just a little more glowy and everything revolves around relaxation, enjoyment and flirtation.  As you can imagine, beautiful people and sun burnt bodies can’t help but magnetize everyone’s attention!

Today’s post is dedicated to those sun burnt bodies and faces, who seek a bit more depth and dimension with the help of luminous, little makeup creations…

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Saint Prokopis beach- Naxos island- Greece

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GIORGIO ARMANI- Sheer Bronzer 

Giorgio Armani Sheer Bronzer in #1 Brown Sand, is a great bronzer for those of you who look for the highly desirable J-Lo effect. Even though it is exactly as the name implies, sheer, when built it gifts amazing glow and compliments ideally medium to deep tanned skin tones. The powder is scentless and its colour is a true taupe (not even a hint of red or orange) with golden shimmer. I want to add that it goes nicely with the sheer bronzer #5 of the Armani line, applied discreetly on the apples of the cheeks.

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The bronzer costs 45 Euro. If you include it in your shopping list and it happens that you travel through airports, make sure you purchase it at Duty Frees as it can get as low as 36 Euro.

MAC –  Iridescent Loose Powder

Mac’s loose powder in Golden Bronze is a beautiful, finely milled, shimmering powder, which you can wear in face, neck and decolte, aiming to add both light and depth in your looks. The powder is scentless and the colour that you get is the exact one of its name, a dark, bronzed up gold with a hint of peach. It is best applied with a full blush brush.

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The loose powder costs 23 Euro and it lasts forever since you only need a tiny amount of product in every application. Make sure you regulate the amount of loose powder that comes out each time, because you can easily create a mess.

GUERLAIN- Terra Soleia Tan-Enhancing Bronzer Face and Décolleté

Terra Soleia is a limited edition powder, coming in a gigantic packaging. Thinking of it, is very convenient because the powder is supposed to be applied on face, decolte and -I will deliberately add- shoulders! As a Terracotta “child”, Terra Soleia has a prominent, yet super sexy tiare flower scent. Its fine powder has a true golden colour with zero amount of glitter but rather a nice, rich sheen.

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I purchased the powder from Dubai and it costed me 300 Dhs or else 70 Euro. I forecast that I will enjoy the powder for quite a while, as its generous amount permits me to play around with it ofter and yet, as you can see, the pattern is still intact!

AVON- Glow Bronzing Pearls

Bronzing Pearls by Avon is a nice product to polish your daytime looks. It contains 3 kind of pearls: yellow, peachy tan and dark taupe.  Mixed together, they provide a natural like tanned colour in peachy undertones, with a neither matte, nor a shimmery finish, but rather a velvety one. The pearls secrete a fine, creamy, coconut scent.

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The powder costs 12 Euro and at the moment you can find it in the Avon website on sale.

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Saint Prokopis beach- Naxos island- Greece

Enjoy your vacations!!!

High end perfumes in budget

Pleasant discoveries is always the best thing can happen to me during trips!

In my latest trip to Athens, capital of Greece and city of goddess Athena, I made a big discovery in a small corner of a beauty store…

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Parthenon- Athens

While rooming around the cosmetics meccah Hondos Center store of Ermou street, the most central shopping destination of Athens, I digged out Menounos perfumes. Greek brand Menounos reproduces some of the most extensively sold, high end perfumes of the market including J’adore, Addict, Hypnotic Poison by Dior, Coco Noir and Coco my Chanel, Angel and Alien by Thierry Mugler and many many more. You get a 100ml of juice in refillable bottle for just 2.53 Euro.

Menounos is also producing accords such as powdery notes, rose, caramel and more in 100ml bottles for 1.47 Euro.

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If you happen to visit or live in Athens and you want to stay on budget, yet you do not want to give away your favourite perfumes, then you may consider passing by Hondos Center of Ermou.

Dry Oils: Summer Edition

What is the most ideal season to wear dry oils, other than Summer? Typically, they nourish the skin deeply, leaving it discreetly scented and glowy. They also serve as a great base to preserve the scent of your perfumes throughout the day.

This post looks upon few dry oils that caught my eye and tested thoroughly.

 Guerlain- Terracotta Eau Sous Le Vent

One word: intoxicating! Its sunny, tiare flower scent stigmatizes a specific part of my vacations for a couple of summers now: every refreshing, late afternoon shower I have after I returned from my sea and sun baths!

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The Eau Sous Le Vent oil contains the Guerlain patented “Tan Booster complex” that compliments and prolongs my tans and is hydrating enough to quench my dehydrated skin after sun exposure. Guerlain promotes it as a body and face moisturizing and tan enhancing mist.

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I usually buy this oil from Duty Frees, where it comes in companion with the Huile du Voyageur, which I write about in this post too. The two together come in a 30 ml each, special packaging and cost Dhs 240 in Dubai Airports, approximately 48 Euro. Here you can find the 100ml for 42.50 Euro.

NUXE-Huile Prodigieuse

To Nuxe and all the perfume and sunscreen manufacturers out there: Could you make me a sunscreen having Prodigieuse’s scent? Thank you!

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After Estee Lauder’s “Bronze Goddess” tropical scent, this is my second favourite olfactive drug for nourishing my skin during summer. It has nuances of neroli, coconut milk, tiare flower and musk and while it lasts on skin, its scent relaxes me, travels me and brings me joy.

Nuxe promotes it as a product for body, face and hair. Personally, I do not rely much on its moisturizing properties, as after extensive and exclusive usage on my body, I noticed my skin getting drier. I purchased the regular 50ml flacon for Dhs80 (about 17 Euro) from Boots pharmacy in the UAE. There is also the 100ml flacon for 29 Euro, which comes in spray.

On a different note, Nuxe launched the beloved Prodigieuse fragrance in Eau de Parfum! The top notes contain bergamot, mandarine and orange flower petals. In the heart we have rose, gardenia and magnolia and in the base vanilla, coconut milk.

Roger & Gallet- Les Huiles 

Roger and Gallet is a French Perfumery that crafts exceptional perfumes and body products since 1862. Their scents are delicate, subtle and fresh. The brand makes 3 perfumed dry oils:  Huile Sublime Bois d’ orange, Eau Sublime Or Bois d’orange and Huile Embellissante Fleur d’osmanthus. The brand promote them as oils for body, face and hair.

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Out of the selection of three, I got the Fleur d’osmanthus one that simply enchanted me! It has a prominent hesperidin- floral- balmy scent and when is paired with the cream or lotion out of the homonym range, the result is just… beautiful. The olfactive dry down of cream and oil together reminded me that of Chanel’s No 19.

Alternatively, I would pair Huile Embellissante Fleur d’osmanthus with the Jean-Marie Farina cream or lotion, to give a tiny deeper and balmier dimension to the olfactive result.

Lastly, I want to vote thumbs down on Eau Sublime Or bois d’Orange that I thought it would match nicely a deep tan, as the product contains golden glitter in it. Sublime Or had a pleasant, orangey, mainstream scent and left my skin with slattern golden glitters, which –on the bright side- can be easily wiped off.

Huile Sublime Bois D’Orange comes in 30 ml for 11 Euro and 100 ml for 22.90 Euro. Sublime Or comes in 100 ml and costs 37.50 ml. and Huile Embellissante Fleur d’Osmanthus comes in 100ml for 22.90Euro. In Greece, you can find the range in Hondos Center Kolwnaki and Glyfada and several pharmacies located all over the country.

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Guerlain- Terracotta Huile Du Voyageur 

This is the perfect accessory for a fancy night out, a wedding, or any special occasion when you want to make a statement with your appearance. Why? Because it has that prominent, sexy tiare flower scent and because when applied strategically, it gives you enough sparkle to glow.

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Terracotta Huile Du Voyageur is a thick, bronzy-coppery consistency with tiny shimmer particles and it aims to compliment your annual, long coveted tan or to give a slight hint of colour and glow on your hands and legs right in the transition periods of spring (preparing you psychologically for summer) and autumn (prolonging the fading tint of your body). Guerlain describes it as an illuminating tan intensifier for body.

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It has an SPF of 8 and as almost all the Terracotta products do, it contains the exclusive to Guerlain “Tan Booster” technology that helps the skin maintains its tan. Longevity-wise the effects of the oil stay on my skin for 4-6 hours, depending on how humid the weather is.

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As I mentioned before I buy it in special Duty Free packages along with the Eau Sous Le Vent oil (check above). You can find it a full version here as 100ml for 45 Euro.

NUXE- Huile Prodigieuse Or

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This is the bronzed up-shimmering version of the regular dry oil. It has the same merveilleux scent, with the same staying power, though it is coloured. Its colour is a burnt orange and it contains micro golden glitter. When rubbed, it leaves your skin glowy, with few visible glitter particles on it but not a hint of colour. In other words, you should not expect to give you any colour, but more of a scented sheen to embellish your skin for few hours.

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I purchased the 50 ml bottle for 23 Euro, from a Greek pharmacy. The product comes also in a 100ml bottle spray and costs 36,70 Euro.

 The Body Shop- Honey Bronze Shimmering Dry Oil

This is a new, summer launch by The Body Shop, for which I had high hopes. I tried the product in store, willing to buy it but making up my mind soon after the trial.

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pictures taken from thebodyshop.com

It has an overpowering white flower scent, which stays on for few hours. In the beginning the product felt super oily on my skin and was hard to absorb. The oil comes in two colours, however both were transparent upon application. The glitter was very fine and it stayed on the skin for some time after the oil was absorbed.

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The product overall felt “too much”: heavy in texture and fragrance. It left me with a feeling of an uncomfortable, sticky layer on my skin, rather than pampered.

Honey Bronze Shimmering Dry Oil comes in 01 Honey Kiss and 02 Golden Honey, as 100 ml, for 26 Euro.

Do you like using dry oils?