The mystical Incense Route
The incense street
The “tears of the gods,” as Frankincense is also called, were responsible for worldwide trade relations, power, and wealth. The gold-plated resin was transported with camels on the incense road, the oldest trade route in the world. The first recorded incense transport took place in the tenth century BC when the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon. The trade within Arabia probably evolved through the domestication of the camel at that time, as the camels could carry heavy loads and could run out of water for several days, allowing the trade routes to pass through barren desert areas. The route of the ancient incense road began in Dhofar (Oman), led through present-day Yemen over the west coast of Arabia and finally ended in Gaza and Damascus. Camel caravans took 100 days to cover this 3400-kilometer route.
The heyday of the incense route lasted from the fifth century BC until the first century AD. During this time, cities and kingdoms were created along the trade route, which served as transshipment points and water points but raised high tariffs. These revenues gave them power and wealth. One drawback, however, was that they depended on frankincense, as there were no fertile soils for growing crops in the dry desert landscape, nor waters for maritime trade. When the Red Sea was opened up and trade could be handled faster and above all without high tariffs, the kingdoms along the incense road lost their importance and finally vanished.