Storytelling Through Scents: An Interview with Amna AlHabtoor

The world of perfumes is a wonderful one, with lots of different approaches and a deep history. As its well known, perfumes have such a large impact on the Emirati culture, some of us wake up every morning to the smell of bukhoor, we put on some dihn oud, spray some mukhalat, and smoke ourselves in dukhoon. Little do we remember that our ancestors made those scents that connect us with both our heritage and special occasions. This article takes us on a journey in the world of scents with Amna Al Habtoor, the founder of Arcadia by Amna.


With the idea that scent triggers memory and taking inspiration from the Emirati culture Amna invested in learning about the chemical aspect of perfume to deliver a unique concept of scent and memory in the UAE or as she calls it creating a movement with scent. Amna started her perfume journey by creating a scent for her wedding day and now every time she smells the perfume it takes her back to that special day.


“Every scent creates a narrative” – Amna AlHabtoor


A scent can transport you to a location, remind you of a special occasion or a special person and this the reason why shopping for perfume can be an experience. A person can try every perfume in a shop but will choose one that triggers a memory.  And that is the reason Amna is aiming to create an experience through scent.


Preserving heritage

As a perfumer Amna aims to preserve the older generation’s way of creating scent with an innovative twist. To fully understand the concept of mixing scent Amna went to the experts, grandmothers. Amna explains that mixing perfume that has been done for generation giving each house a distinguished scent that instantly reminding you of a certain household. Learning the scents that are used in perfume mix such as rose and wood scent, Amna was able to perverse our heritage in a perfume bottle. As with the availability of thousands of perfumes at our reach the future generation will lack the knowledge how of perfume was created in the traditional way. Acquiring knowledge about the traditional way of mixing perfumes from the older generation will enable the future generation to have an understanding of the meaning of perfumes from the older generations.


Being sustainable

Having the idea of sustainability in mind Amna introduced a perfume line that is Paraben-free, Chemical free and Cruelty free unlike other perfume companies in the market.  Being environmental cautions and sustainable can reduce harmful waste in the environment and encourage customers to make more sustainable purchasing decisions. The packaging of the perfume is designed in a minimalist style allowing the customer to imagine their own experiences as many perfume bottles try to selling us existing experiences. Her perfume line created waves as she did not deliver the typical style of other Arab perfume, as her perfume line is also unisex, but with passion and educating the society on scent and memory the business is sure to make an impact in how we see perfume in the UAE.


Your step into the world of perfumery

The art of perfumery is a skill that Amna described as a learning curve as during her intensive course in London did not teach the traditional Emirati way of mixing perfume. The course solely focuses on the chemical aspect of perfumes, Amna was able to build on the knowledge she gained from the course to incorporate the traditional way of mixing perfumes. Amna shares one of her moment when she created perfume for her sister, she started by mixing the scents that she felt suited her sister. When she presented the perfume, her sister felt that the scent did not quite suit her, as Amna explained perfume is very personal and different scent can trigger different memories and narratives. Using trial and error and the knowledge gained from the older generation Amna was able to confidentially create her perfume line with the goal of creating a narrative.