arabic perfumes
Even though France is often touted as the perfume capital of the world, the birthplace of wearable fragrance was the Middle East. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Oud. Musk. Myrrh. Frankincense. If you live in the Middle East, these scents may seem familiar to you. For centuries, they’ve been important components in the evolution of Arabian perfumes. And now, the rest of the world wants a whiff.

Opulent fragrances from the Middle East are the latest viral sensation on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok. It’s thanks in large part to American fragrance influencer Funmi Monet (@funmimonet), whose whimsical unboxing-style videos on TikTok have helped reintroduce Arabian perfumes to a global audience.

Millions of viewers around the world are now turning their heads to the Middle East for olfactory inspiration. It’s ironic, however, since the region is where it all began.

Even though France is often touted as the perfume capital of the world, the birthplace of wearable fragrance was in the Middle East – to be specific, in Mesopotamia, or modern-day Iraq. The world’s first recorded chemist and perfumer, a woman named Tapputi, distilled the first fragrance formula in history, according to the Journal of Chemical Education. She included notes like cypress, myrrh, and balsam, which are still commonly found in modern-day Arabian perfumes.

Mustafa Firoz, managing director of My Perfumes Group said: “Arabian perfumes are built on a rich legacy of perfume artistry, enshrined in the finest traditions of perfume alchemy. The art of perfume is deeply entrenched in the regional culture and dates back to thousands of years, so much so that, it assumed a language of its own. A perfume could indicate your social class and stature in the society.”

How are Arabian fragrances different from Western ones?

The tradition of perfumery from the Middle East goes back hundreds of years. Image Credit: Unsplash/Galen Crout

The region’s centuries-old combination of earthy, floral scents can be found influencing perfumes from other parts of the world today.

Firoz explained why Arabic fragrances are so different: “They are often created from pure oils and other precious ingredients. This makes Arabian fragrances richer, more opulent and exotic, with greater longevity, diffusion and sillage. Since the base is usually natural perfume oil, in contrast to synthetic notes, [Arabian] perfume compositions are complex and often meander through many stages before finally coming into their own. This quality gives the perfume a sense of mystery and mystique. It is like being on an adventurous journey...”

According to Firoz, the ingredients used in Arabian perfumery are “more rich, warm, earthy or woody, with stronger fragrance facets, hence the fragrances are stronger in character and depth”.

Some of the most commonly found ingredients in perfumes from the region are oud, amber, sandalwood, leather, musk, frankincense, rose and spices.

As the West awakens to the rich, luxurious scents of Arabia, we’ve curated a list of trending perfumes inspired by the Middle East, based on top-rated reviews on Amazon. Although many of our selected fragrances are homegrown brands using classic ingredients, we’ve also included new-generation perfumers that are not necessarily based in the Middle East, but are adding a modern twist to the region’s traditional practices. You’ll find great options for both men and women.

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1. Best Overall (Women): Swiss Arabian Layali Eau De Parfum

An oil-based perfume that’s fruity and floral, Swiss Arabian’s Layali beautifully blends traditional ingredients with more modern notes. Its top notes comprise a fruity composition of plum, orange blossom and blackcurrant. They seamlessly blend into heart notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose, finally settling into a sweet sillage of amber and agarwood (or oud). Reviewers love Layali’s unique scent and affordable price, but many say they need to top up after three or four hours, since it’s quite light on the skin.

2. Best Overall (Men): Rasasi La Yuqawam Eau de Parfum 

A classic, modern fragrance that will never go out of style, Rasasi’s La Yuqawam literally translates to ‘irresistible’ in Arabic. It opens with an earthy, spicy note of Italian leather, tempered with Arabian oud and Indian saffron. With top notes of geranium and rose, middle notes of Yemeni olibanum and French jasmine, and base notes of leather, amber and agarwood, the scent is tailormade for international connoisseurs of perfumes. Satisfied reviewers say the fragrance is both sophisticated and intimate, and lasts for hours without the need for a top up.

3. Best Gift: My Perfumes Oud Al Layl Gift Set 

An excellent gift for both men and women, My Perfumes’ Oud Al Layl comprises a 100ml eau de parfum and a 200ml perfume spray. At its heart is one of the most popular fragrances from Arabia: oud. Firoz said: “Oud is undoubtedly the queen of oriental notes and amongst the most symbolic perfume exports from the Middle East. The sillage of the oud note has no comparison in the world of perfumery. It manifests as the pinnacle of richness, opulence, stature and seduction, and is synonymous with the mystique of the signature Arabian fragrance trail.” Oud Al Layl combines top notes of rose and orange with heart notes of violet, cedarwood and sugar, ending in base notes of musk, moss and patchouli.

4. Best Unisex Perfume: Swiss Arabian Shaghaf Oud Eau de Parfum

A scent that will appeal to any gourmand, Swiss Arabian’s Shaghaf Oud makes a lasting impression. It opens with strands of saffron, an ingredient that’s known as ‘red gold’, which blends with agarwood and rose to ramp up its intensity, until it’s enveloped in the delectable base notes of vanilla, praline, and oud. Repeat buyers of Shaghaf Oud praise the perfume in the comments, attesting to its strong scent and long-lasting properties. Its striking bottle, in a luxe gold colour, makes it a great gift for a loved one, too.

5. Best All-Day Perfume (Women): Khamrah Lattafa Eau De Parfum

A bestseller on Amazon for its long-lasting sillage, Khamrah Lattafa is packaged as a unisex perfume, but most reviewers say it holds a greater appeal for women. Aromatic and spicy, the fragrance combines top notes of fresh bergamot, velvety cinnamon and sage, with heart notes of creamy praline, dates and tuberose. The base ties it all together with a blend of sweet vanilla, smoky oud, myrrh, tonka bean and refined amber. The overall sensation is sweet, warm and spicy – perfect for evenings out.

6. Best All-Day Perfume (Men): Parfums De Marly Godolphin Eau De Parfum

This luxurious French scent is named after Godolphin Barb, an Arabian horse that was one of three stallions who became the founders of the modern thoroughbred racing horse. Complex, rich and masculine, the scent features top notes of thyme, saffron and cypress, heart notes of jasmine, Taif rose and orris, and base notes of vetiver, musk, amber, leather and cedarwood. Reviewers say it has an unmistakeably strong, charismatic scent that will linger all day long on your clothes and skin.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh46.02 for 12 months with select banks. 

7. Best Perfume Oil: Nemat Amber

Trending on social platforms like TikTok, Nemat’s Amber fragrance oil has been going viral for good reason. It’s a subtle, long-lasting fragrance that blends with your body chemistry to create your own unique skin scent. With soft, clean notes, the American brand uses an Indian and Arabian inspired blend of ingredients to create this exquisite fragrance that’s suitable for both men and women. Reviewers claim just one drop on the skin goes a long way, however, some say the 10ml bottle doesn’t provide enough value for money, when used daily.

8. Best Evening Perfume (Women): Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan Eau De Parfum

As the story goes, French perfumer Serge Lutens was wandering through the souks of Marrakesh, Morocco, when he came across an amber resin, which lay forgotten for years inside a thuja wood box. That experience inspired the Ambre Sultan, a minimalist, refined scent that combines earthy amber with the freshness of the cistus herb and the creaminess of vanilla, to create a lingering, intoxicating fragrance. It’s a dense and complex scent that both men and women will appreciate, but its vanilla warmth and elegant, understated appeal is likely to charm women more.

Bonus: Buy with 0% installments and pay Dh41.79 for 12 months with select banks. 

9. Best Evening Perfume (Men): Ajmal Amber Wood Eau de Parfum

A multi-layered perfume catered to both genders, but is likely better suited to men, Ajmal’s Amber Wood is a sensuous, potent scent that’s best worn on balmy nights out. It comprises top notes of fruit and spice – apple, white pepper, lavender and cardamom – which blend with woody heart notes of orris and cedar wood, and settle into base notes of amber and patchouli. Fragrant and soothing, the blend of ingredients is more warm and woody, than floral. The fragrance has garnered 4.4 stars on Amazon, with one reviewer saying it feels like being enveloped in a comforting blanket.

Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.