The First Gift

Around Town

By Elaine Haider
The First Gifts – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. We are all familiar with Gold but what of Frankincense and Myrrh? What were these mystical offerings?
 
When I came to live in Kuwait over 30 years ago, one of my favourite pastimes was to visit the old souk with all its wonderful sights, sounds and smells. The aroma of sandalwood burning to entice buyers to come and buy, mingling with the scent of perfumed oils and rosewater mixed in with the delicious smell of little savoury pastries being cooked. One of the stalls in particular would intrigue me, the friendly merchant was selling things I had never seen before. Laid out before me were little mounds of aromatic powders, resins, herbs, plants and spices. But the language barrier prevented me from learning what these things were. One day many years later when I had learned a little of the language I decided to talk to the old man who ran the stall to try and find out just what it was he was selling. I wrote down the local names of some of these things and went home to start my research. Two of these names translated into words that evoked magical stories from my childhood Sunday school classes. On that dusty stall in an old Arabian souk I had stumbled upon Frankincense and Myrrh! The gifts brought by the Magi – the three wise men, Melchior, Balthasar and Caspar who followed a star to present the first gifts to the new born Messiah. I felt an immediate connection to that stable in Bethlehem where a mother and her new-born baby welcomed the three kings bearing their precious gifts over two thousand years ago.
 
Since that day I have further researched these two magical substances and have found out that Frankincense is a resin from the Boswellia Sacra tree – a tree that has grown on the inhospitable slopes of the Arabian sea for thousands of years. It was and still is used as incense, it was thought to aid the transport of prayer to heaven.  Frankincense has been one of the world’s most treasured commodities since the beginning of written history. At its peak its value rivaled that of gold, the rarest silks, and the most precious of gems. Myrrh is resin from the Commiphora Myrrha tree. In ancient times Myrrh was among the most valuable substances known. It was used as incense in its raw state and also processed into oil which was used to cleanse wounds. It was also used in the mummification of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt and to anoint kings.  We tend to think of Frankincense & Myrrh as being precious in the same way as gold but in fact while gold was prized for its monetary value, frankincense & myrrh were valued for their medicinal qualities. In the days before conventional medicine, these substances were valuable for their antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Today, they are still used in the Middle East and Asia in herbal medicine and much research is going on into these two resins. It seems the wise men knew a thing or two about precious gifts.
 
After discovering these long forgotten treasures, I decided that I couldn’t possibly keep them to myself and started ‘The First Gifts’ www.thefirstgifts.com  an on-line store which now ships Frankincense & Myrrh all over the world. We tend to associate Frankincense & Myrrh only with Christmas but in fact it is mentioned numerous times in the bible. They make excellent gifts too for a Christening, Golden wedding, Winter wedding, Easter, New baby, Baby’s first Christmas, a leaving gift, a thoughtful ‘Get well soon’ gift and of course a wonderful souvenir from The East. You can read my blog on the web-site for lots more information on these mystical substances. If you want see these treasures for yourself, I will be attending some local bazaars in Kuwait. This year I will be at the KTAA bazaar at Sadu house on Saturday November 22nd from 10 am – 5pm, The British ladies winter bazaar on Friday November 28th which takes place at the British school of  Kuwait Salwa from 10 am – 4pm and also at the Gifts bazaar at Salwa al Sabah hall on the seafront by marina crescent on December 5th.
 
Hope to see you there!
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