Frankincense Tree in Ayaft
Ayaft Gorge is the greenest place of Socotra. Its unique moisture-retaining microclimate is created by numerous springs and streams. The gorge is protected from summer monsoons by Scant Mountains. That is why its vegetation remains lush the year round.
In spite of its close location to the airport and the main road leading to Hadiboh it looks like a fairy world filled with wondrous birds, fantastic trees and real mountain Socotrans.
The earth road will lead you along the stream to a wide water-meadow where a small village is snuggled. It is a usual place for most tourist groups to get out of cars for a walk. If you want to see a little out-of-the-way place of Socotra we would recommend you to continue driving other two kilometers along the country road to a small Socotran settlement where most people do not speak Arabic and have a lifestyle that has not practically changed for centuries.
The hillsides are covered with dense bush thickets. So, to avoid scratching your skin follow the paths. It is the right place where frankincense trees grow. With a thin smooth body and long branches with small narrow leaves the tree is not much to look at. It is rather difficult to find it – you need someone to show it to you. But this is the tree that made Socotra famous in the ancient world.
Frankincense, also called olibanum (Arabic
language: لبٌان, lubbān), is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia by slashing the bark and allowing the exuded resins to
bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. With special
skill it is quite possible to harvest a handful of frankincense
for an hour. If you lived 2100 years ago, you would get hold of a vast wealth as
Socotra’s frankincense was valued above gold and other incenses.
If you feel the difference between smells make sure that EVERY tree has its individual smell! The resin flavor depends also on a season and its age. Old trees produce the best tears due to their higher aromatic content. But one has to spend much time and efforts to find such a tree.
It is more easily to buy a pot with frankincense tears from local kiddies. They make their business by selling a handful of this aromatic resin for 500 riyal. It is a fixed price. We would recommend you to have small money as they do not give change. Please, don’t tap frankincense by yourself – remember that you are a guest at a private territory.
When walking along Ayaft look under your feet. It is the right place where we met chameleons at various times. They won’t do you any harm. You can even take them in your arms. What can’t be said about a big shaggy spider we saw here in a while. His bite can even kill a camel.
The whole trip takes at least 3 hours. It is good to combine it with swimming and toasting on the close deserted beach. After that you can wash sea-salt from your body in a fresh water pool of Ayaft. Though Ayaft, due to its close location to the airport, is usually planned as the first place to visit in most standard tourist programs, we would recommend you to come here in the end of your travel. You will get more impressions!
From Ayaft gorge you can undertake a number of interesting trekking trips, for example, back to Hadiboh. This trek route takes a day. It is not difficult but uphill hiking skill will be good for you.
Photos from Ayaft Gorge: