The Incense Road Header

Documentary Film based on Gibson's book: Qur'anic Geography


The Sacred City from Glasshouse Media on Vimeo.
 Stops on the
Incense Road
Wadi Fiqreh
Wadi Arabah
Rekem, (Petra)
Wadi Rumm
Al Uyaynah
Northern Desert Trek
Meda'in Saleh
Southern Desert Trek
Marib (Saba)
Timna (Qatraban)
Further Information
The Incense Sea Route

 There has been an Incense Trade Route for as long as there has been recorded history. As soon as the camel was domesticated, Arab tribes began carrying incense from southern Arabia to the civilizations scattered around the Mediterranean Sea. By the time of King Solomon, the incense route was in full swing, and Solomon reaped rich rewards in the form of taxes from the incense passing into and through his kingdom.

The records of Babylon and Assyria all mention the incense trade but it wasn't until the Nabataean tribe of Arabs dominated the Incense Road that Europeans suddenly took notice. For the Nabataeans completely monopolized not only the Incense Road but the Silk Road as well.

Up until 24 BC the Nabataeans moved large caravans of frankincense, myrrh and other incenses from southern Arabia and spices from India and beyond to the Mediterranean ports of Gaza and Alexandria.

From this page you can visit some of the stopping places on the Incense Road. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder mentioned that the route took 62 days to traverse from one end to the other. Many of these stops were cities or towns while others were simply watering locations or dry encampments in the desert. They averaged between 20 and 25 miles apart. We have listed twenty five of the caravan stopping places on the left side of this web page. Each of these links opens a page about the stopping place. From these pages you can follow even more links as you explore further in and beyond.

It is important to note that the Incense Route was not fixed. As towns or kingdoms tried taxing the caravans passing through them, the merchants would switch their routes, using different passes or treks through the desert. As a result, towns along the route would wax and wane, depending on the route that the caravans took.

At its height, the Incense Route moved over 3000 tons of incense each year. Thousands of camels and camel drivers were used. The profits were high, but so were the risks from thieves, sandstorms, and other threats.

Soon after 24 BC, the Incense Road began to be replaced by the Incense Sea Route. As Nabataean dhows carried Incense from ports along the southern coast of Arabia north to Nabataea and Egypt, the inland route slowly passed out of existence.