Articles/Explore the historic Incense Route

Explore the historic Incense Route

"درب البخور" الطريق الذي تنازعت الإمبراطوريات على التحكم به

17 MAR 2021

Source: Nesreen Omran

When the traders of old wanted to transport frankincense, spices, and myrrh from Yemen and Oman to the Mediterranean region, they made the arduous trek on the Incense Route. Spanning 2,000 kilometers, this ancient trade road connected the Arabian Peninsula to other parts of the world.


When merchant caravans and travelers used to take the Incense Route from Yemen, they would pass by Najran, Taif, Makkah and Madina, AlUla, Tayma, Qasim, and Al-Ahsa. 

From there, they would eventually find their way to Mediterranean ports across the Levant as well as Egypt, Bahrain and beyond. 

The Incense Route flourished between the seventh century BC and the second century AD. Many empires and alliances wrestled for control over this key trade network, since it was used to transport luxury goods to places of worship such as mosque, churches, and temples.

Frankincense and myrrh were also extensively traded in the ancient world as they were used to embalm mummies in Egypt, produce medicines and cosmetics and perform religious ceremonies in Roman, Jewish and Christian places of worship. Demand was so strong that frankincense and myrrh were sometimes more expensive than gold.

Roads of the Incense Route

  • · A southern road that leads east along the coast of the Arabian Peninsula to the cinnamon-producing region.
  • · A road originating from the south of the Arabian Peninsula, heading north to Jarha near Al-Hofuf and from there to Wadi Al-Rafidain.
  • · A road that crosses the Arabian Peninsula from Makkah to the Mesopotamian Valley. This road splits into two branches at Hail.
  • · A road branching from Madinah and stretching north at Tayma and Dumat Al-Jandal to Babylon.
  • · A road that connects the far north of the Arabian Peninsula with Baghdad, and runs along the Euphrates River to the Levant.
  • · The Red Sea Road that connected East Africa to India, Ceylon, China and Southeast Asia.

Engraving the Incense Route

Many inscriptions, Thamudic writings, and drawings along the Incense Route have been engraved by merchants, nomads, and travelers making their way towards the Hijaz.

There are many tourist attractions for visitors including more than 100 exquisitely preserved rock tombs – they have been carved with Nabataean epitaphic icons largely inspired by the Romans and Greeks and which directly resulted from cultural exchange along the trade route.