East African Somali incense (Uunsi)

By Suhair Awaleh
Uunsi in Somalia is considered both an incense and a perfume. It's a gentle blend of natural elements like perfume oils, Resin, wood, and sugar. The blend varies in different parts of Somalia, and it has come a long way from the original ancient recipe which was created about 6500 years ago.
In ancient Somalia, Uunsi, Frankincense, and perfumes were considered Barwaaqo (a gift from the God Waaq) and were exclusively made and burned by wadaads ( temple priests) in Taalos( religious temples dedicated to the Cushitic sky deity Waaq) to treat ailments. The ancient practice of making and burning Uunsi has been handed down to females in every Somali family since then. Uunsi was also used as a commodity and exchange currency with ancient civilizations like Ancient Egypt, Greece, Roman Empire, India, and China.
Post-Islam Somalis continued to use Uunsi to perfume their homes and mosques since cleanliness and good smells are encouraged in Islam. Nowadays modern Somali women use Uunsi to perfume their clothes and hair, which surrounds them with an Ora of a mysterious and seductive je ne sais quoi, Uunsi is also used to perfume bed sheets and homes after cooking large meals, especially when receiving guests, as a gesture of hospitality. 
How is Uunsi used?
You burn Uunsi the same way you burn frankincense or other kinds of resin incense. Charcoal tab in a Dabqaad – a traditional Uunsi burner – is the best way to burn Uunsi . First, you light the charcoal tab with a lighter or match (make sure to do so on a fire-proof surface). Once the charcoal is fully lit, it will glow red and it will be covered in a greyish soot. Use a pair of tongs to place the tab in the Dabqaad and carefully place Uunsi on top of the tab. The Uunsi’s oils will evaporate aided by the heat of the charcoal tab, releasing exotic, aromatic and rich fragrances.

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