Discover the next Open Days Milano · Firenze · London · Paris · Dubai Register nowDiscover the next Open Days
Mar 20, 2024

How Middle Eastern fragrances are conquering the world

In Japan and Korea, the famed 7-step skincare routine reigns supreme. A similar trend can be seen in the Middle East when it comes to perfume culture. People there are admired for their ability to layer different fragrances—a technique where different olfactory accords are expertly combined to make bespoke fragrances. 

Visualizza questo post su Instagram

Un post condiviso da KAYALI FRAGRANCES 💎 (@kayali)


The Art of Scent Layering in the Middle East

Enthusiasts adorn their garments with swirling incense, sprinkle themselves with rose water, and indulge in precious oils and extracts of oud, incense, and saffron. This ritual, steeped in history and tradition, is now poised for a cross-continental journey as it sets its sights on captivating the Western market.

@asmaa_loves_perfumes Oud is SO luxurious 😍✨ #oudperfume #arabperfume #perfumecombo ♬ original sound - Asmaa loves perfumes 💎


The Booming Perfume Market in the Middle East and North Africa

According to McKinsey & Co., the perfume market in the Middle East and North Africa is experiencing robust growth. With $4.5 billion in revenue in 2022, marking a 19% leap from 2021, projections indicate further expansion.

Between 2024 and 2032, analysts predict that the market will experience a surge, with a projected Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.5%. By the end of the decade, the industry is expected to reach a substantial $5.4 billion, primarily driven by strong growth in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.


The Rise of Oriental Fragrances and Oud-Based Scents on a Global Scale

The surging demand for oud-based scents has transcended borders, igniting fierce competition on a global scale. Initially confined to Gulf nations and nearby regions, this coveted resin has now captivated the Western market, propelled by the allure of Tom Ford’s Oud Wood. 

Visualizza questo post su Instagram

Un post condiviso da TOM FORD (@tomford)

Launched in 2007 as part of the esteemed Private Blend collection, Oud Wood sparked considerable interest among European and American creators and brands, prompting them to delve into Oriental olfactory notes and diversifying the market landscape.


Middle Eastern Gen Z Leads the Charge: #ArabianPerfume and #LayeringPerfume Trends Sweep TikTok

In this promising landscape where tradition intertwines with a contemporary approach to fragrance, Generations Z and Alpha are steering trends towards fresh creative expressions. Young consumers in the Middle East enjoy discovering lesser-known, niche brands, drawn to them for their rarer scents.

The concept of layering, as discussed earlier, is now a hot topic on social media: #layeringperfume boasts over 364 million views on TikTok, while #arabianperfume has garnered 27.2 million, featuring advice and tutorials on creating new combinations.

@monakattan Here are my go-to layers to smell like an Arabian princess! 👑🧚‍♀️✨ They are to die for!! ❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥❤️‍🔥 Would you like more recommendations? 🫶🏻 #monakattan #kayali #scentgasm #fragrancetok #tiktoksalon #fragrances #perfumes #arabianprincess #arabianfragrance #arabfragrancetiktok ♬ original sound - Mona Monica Kattan🧸

“Your scent is a distinctive element of your individuality,” according to Mona Monica Kattan, founder of Kayali. Mona, who is the sister of social media luminary Huda Kattan, the creator of Huda Beauty, aimed to blend the local heritage with a forward-thinking Western influence through her perfume brand.  


The Influence of Social Media and Personalised Fragrance Experiences

In Dubai’s bustling malls, fragrance boutiques vie for attention with their array of personalised services. Leading the pack is the French brand Ex Nihilo, renowned for its Osmologue—a precision-blending machine mixing olfactory notes right before your eyes: “see your bespoke perfume created in front of you,” touts the brand.

For this generation, storytelling is paramount: perfumes must encapsulate their dreams, particularly the desire to exude an aristocratic allure. “Want to smell like a princess?” prompts a TikTok influencer, sharing a curated list of fragrances that fit the bill. Similarly, Mona Monica Kattan, who has over 600 thousand followers on her account @monakattan, shares her “go-to layers to smell like an Arabian princess.” 

Meanwhile, the fragrance Arabians Tonka by Montale is lauded as a “fragrance that will have you smelling like an Arabian Queen” on the account @perfumemania_. 

@ally_wong tell me your favorite PDM perfume I wanna know :) #parfumsdemarly #perfumetiktok #fragrancetiktok @Parfums de Marly @Luckyscent ♬ La vie en rose (Cover Edith Piaf) - 田东昱

Another favorite among younger users is Delina by Parfums de Marly, with its opulent pink boudoir-style bottle reminiscent of French royalty and the court of Louis XV.


Middle Eastern Fragrance Brands: Local Success and Global Expansion

While Western best-sellers dominate the top ten sales charts even in Arab countries, local brands with rich histories, opulent packaging, and distinctive olfactory profiles are strategically expanding their reach abroad.

On the one hand, numerous European fragrance houses have opened branches in Dubai to cater to the refined tastes of local consumers. On the other, it’s interesting to note that the primary market for Amouage, an elegant Perfume House founded in 1983 and owned by the Sultan of Oman, is not in its native region but in the United States. The brand is set to launch a new fragrance called Guidance in a few weeks. The perfume is made with three quintessential ingredients of Omani perfumery—incense, roses cultivated at an altitude of 2000 metres, and grey amber—but it was formulated by French perfumer Quentin Bisch of Givaudan.

The primary market for Amouage, an elegant Perfume House founded in 1983 and owned by the Sultan of Oman, is not in its native region but in the United States

The primary market for Amouage, an elegant Perfume House founded in 1983 and owned by the Sultan of Oman, is not in its native region but in the United States


Tradition Meets Innovation: Established and Emerging Perfume Players in the Middle East

In the Middle East, established fragrance houses coexist with newer players. Among the pioneers is Ajmal, which originated from Dubai and was founded in 1951. It is revered for its perfumes deeply rooted in Arab heritage and crafted with natural ingredients. Another noteworthy fragrance is Nabeel, a traditional Saudi Arabian maison established in 1969, renowned for its creations that prioritise high-quality local ingredients.  

Alongside Kayali, another prominent contemporary fragrance brand is Arabian Oud, founded in the Emirates in 1982. Renowned for its luxurious perfumes made with rare and valuable ingredients, popular fragrances include Amiri, Rosewood, and Madawi.

Another emerging brand is Ghawali, an Emirati label established in 2016, offering a modern twist to premium Oriental fragrances. Describing its approach, they say: “We have developed our luxurious collections specifically for the layering ritual, allowing the heady scents to envelop your skin at every touchpoint.”

The burgeoning perfume market in the Middle East poses a significant challenge to international conglomerates. With its rich heritage, evolving preferences, and increasing popularity, even on social media platforms, it not only inspires major players to enhance their product range but also emerges as a potential competitor in the global fragrance industry.



Silvia Manzoni
Journalist and Beauty Expert