A Life-Time in Arabia
Um-Sami is a British lady who has made Kuwait her home for nearly forty years. She has travelled extensively in Arabia searching for treasures for her Arabian gift company www.caravankw.com and she will be sharing her stories and experiences with us in a series of articles for Livinq8
An Ancient Treasure
Why was Frankincense was so expensive? I will let Pliny the elder explain: Pliny the elder was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire. Pliny wrote how the caravans that travelled the frankincense trail were expected to pay taxes at the gates of the cities, to the temples, to the guards and to the porters, to the royal chamberlains and to the servants. All along the 65 staging posts of the route they had to pay for accommodation, food, camel fodder, water, special protection money to local chieftains, as well as a gratuity to the Roman customs officials at Alexandria. These ‘travel expenses’ were slightly lower on other routes, but they all reflected the length and dangers of the journey. Small wonder that frankincense was valued as highly as gold!
Originally donkeys and mules, which needed frequent rest and watering, accomplished the overland transport but from the 11th century B.C. large caravans of camels, which could plod along all day and part of the night without stopping, and didn’t require fresh water every day, substituted them. Soon the caravans grew in size and up to 2,000 to 3,000 camels in one caravan became a frequent sight! Then road posts with soldiers and places for lodging and food were needed, and thus the famous “caravanserais” grew up along the Incense Road. The most famous of these is the fabled PETRA “a rose-red city half as old as time” to quote the poet John William Burgon. I will be writing about my visit to this fabled city in my next article for LivinQ8.
The price of frankincense has fallen over the intervening years and this precious treasure is now accessible to us all. You can find it at https://www.caravankw.com/46-frankincense-myrrh
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