Sacred Scents from Mother Earth
Frankincense from Sudan- Boswellia papyrifera
Boswellia papyrifera from Sudan is very similar to the same variety from Ethiopia, but due to the less intensive harvest and the special climate, the aroma is fruitier and more intense.
Botanical name: Boswellia papyrifera
Place of harvest: Sudan
Scent: Typical frankincense aroma with fruity and sweet nuances
When speaking about Boswellia papyrifera, the conversation tends to center on the frankincense from the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. That area is responsible for the majority of the world’s Boswellia papyrifera trade. However, this frankincense, the most highly traded in the world, also grows in other African countries such as Eritrea, Chad, Cameroon (where it is traded as Boswellia dalzielii), and especially in Sudan.
Climatically and geologically, Sudan is rather special. It’s a huge country with many different climatic zones — not just mountains, as is largely the case in Ethiopia.
While Ethiopia is partly dependent on the export of frankincense, this isn’t so in Sudan. Due to the diverse climate, there are many thousands of seeds, flowers, herbs and resins that are exported all over the world. Sudan is not largely dependent on the frankincense trade — this is a huge advantage because it makes the frankincense from Sudan that much more special and sustainable.
While the trees in Ethiopia deteriorate every year, the frankincense trees in Sudan are not harvested nearly as excessively so they get enough rest to continue thriving.
There are several different regions in Sudan where the frankincense is harvested and you can even find areas where the trees have never been harvested before. Well-established harvesting regions include the state of Blue Nile, as well as Sinnar and South Kordofan. In total, there are six different regions where the Sudanese papyrifera frankincense is harvested.
Every November, the Beja clan, who have been responsible for the frankincense harvest for centuries, set to work, scouring hundreds of square kilometers to harvest the coveted resin, which they call Luban Zakar. But some of the frankincense trees will never be harvested, because the land is too vast and the demand insufficient.
And although it may sound strange (after all, we deal in frankincense), we prefer the trees to remain unharvested. The longer a tree is kept intact, the better it is for the tree, and also for the quality of the frankincense.
Many frankincense trees around the world hardly ever have the benefit of a resting period. In countries like Sudan, where frankincense harvesting has existed for thousands of years and profit is not the first priority, it’s quite natural for a tree to go unharvested for an entire year. Or much less resin is harvested at a time. The Sudanese have neither the financial pressure nor the need to engage in this form of over-harvesting. While in other countries, up to 3kg of frankincense is harvested per tree, this amounts to 200-1000 grams for Boswellia papyrifera from Sudan. The tree is therefore injured in far fewer places. Plus, the Sudanese are satisfied with just one harvest cycle after the first darker resin has been removed from the initial cutting.
Although frankincense plays a major role in Sudanese culture — as medicine, used daily in the home or for celebrations — the country is full of frankincense trees so there’s enough to go around. They love and respect nature, including the bounty of frankincense it supplies. That’s why the best Boswellia papyrifera frankincense comes from Sudan.
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