Mystical, pure and precious, frankincense is more than just an aroma. Emma Thomson follows the Incense Route in Oman to explore its 6,000-year-old story, and how its discovery changed this part of the world.

The smoke coils around the man’s sandaled feet like a cobra, slowly snaking inside his long white dishdasha (robe), until the air, and my head, are hazy from the rich perfume.

He places another tarnished green nugget on the smouldering charcoal. It fizzes a little. Travelers wander through the souk and stop to sniff the air. In a world clouded by celebrity-endorsed scents, this aroma is ancient, pure and mystical. It is frankincense.

Known as ‘white gold’, it’s been traded for over 6,000 years. Egyptians packed the body cavities with it during the mummification process; Wise Man Melchior famously brought it as a gift for baby Jesus; Queen Sheba ferried it to Jerusalem when meeting King Solomon; and Roman emperor, Nero, burned an entire year’s harvest of frankincense at the funeral of his favorite mistress.