I remember as a kid hearing in church about the Three Wise Men who came to Bethlehem bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for Baby Jesus – but I really had no idea what frankincense and myrrh were, other than something very precious. In Arabic, frankincense is called luban, which is natural gum. Frankincense is the hardened resin (crystallized tree sap) that comes from a small tree native to the east coast of Africa and the southern coast of the Arabian peninsula. It has many uses, like as incense, gum, or for medicinal purposes. Available in abundance in the old souks of Jeddah, frankincense can be broken off into smaller pieces and chewed. At first it’s a little crunchy, but then it eventually softens up and feels somewhat like the familiar gum that we are all used to chewing nowadays. There is not much flavor to it, although some find it pleasant. I guess I’m more used to the sweetened or minty flavors of modern gum…

About SusieOfArabia

American woman now living in hubby's homeland of Saudi Arabia
This entry was posted in Culture, Nature, Photo and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Frankincense

  1. Peter Styles says:

    Just returned from Jeddah bringing all sorts of spices including frankincense although had trouble until I found out that Lubban was what you asked for. Couldnt track down Myrrh though. Wonded what I should have asked for!

    Saudi hosts couldnt understand why I preferred to be down the souk rather than the Red Sea Mall

    • Hi Peter – So glad you were able to visit the souks – they are much more interesting than the mall, that’s for sure! I love the displays of the colorful spices and all those items I have no clue what they are or what they are used for. I’m glad you figured out the common name for frankincense here. I hope you had a wonderful time and were able to take lots of photos!

  2. Chiara says:

    It is great to have a visual for this substance we sing about annually. I knew what it was, but didn’t have a mental picture. Thanks!

  3. I’ve learned something new today! Thanks for the information.

  4. Dina says:

    What a revelation your photo and words are. So interesting.
    Here the souk has only little chunks of “levona,” maybe the better for chewing. I never knew about its use as gum.
    Thanks again, Susie!

  5. Geogypsy says:

    Must have been highly prized tree sap. Thanks for the lesson Susie.

    Did you change your blog’s format?

  6. Mel says:

    Wow, Susie! I never knew that frankincense was used as a confectionery! I’ve always thought it was simply incense that you burn in your house. I remember the stories from church as well, although nobody really explained what ‘frankincense’ and ‘myrrh’ were when I was a kid, and it took awhile until I was older to research and find out what these mysterious substances were. Now I learned something really neat about one of them. Thanks!

    • I always likened frankincense and myrrh in my mind along with the likes of some precious metal or stones like gold or diamonds. To think of incense or gum as precious commodities is almost a little comical, but I guess back, it was something everybody wanted so it was more valuable.

  7. Until your posting today, I never really knew what frankincense was either! I like your blog’s new look!

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