Burning incense, also known as ‘Dhukkhan’ or ‘Turaren Wuta’, is increasingly becoming popular among ladies in Borno State, especially the Shuwa Arabs and Kanuris who use it to attract men. Burned in a charcoal fire in a metal or ceramic burner to warm their body, the ladies believe the scent attracts men.
The popularity of the incense has risen to the extent that even non-Shuwa or Kanuri women use it often. The popularity has seen even married women getting on the trend’s boat. In fact, it is difficult to see them not using Dhukkhan, as Hajiya Ashe Al-Amin, a Shuwa Arab civil servant in the state, put it: “Dhukkhan or Turaren Wuta is part of our life and we cannot do without it.”
She added: “If you want to marry any Shuwa lady in Borno State or Chad you must be ready to provide Dhukkhan as one of the necessary requirements for the marriage and the man must be ready to provide same, for as long as they remain together.”
When asked if Dhukkhan has any power to attract men, Hajiya Ashe said there is no magic in it. “Every person likes good things. It is the sweet scent that attracts the men. Dhukkhan is of different types, and so also the unique fragrance. When you burn a good combination, your husband would like to sit near you, eating his food and enjoying your company because of the nice fragrance. His friends will be waiting for him outside, but he won’t want to leave you. That is the reason why we do not allow young girls to use Dhukkhan before they marry. Men will attach themselves to them and that will be another problem. No man can resist the power of Dhukkhan, unless they did not mix the right combo for him,” she said.
Miss Adama Tom, a Shuwa Arab from the University of Maiduguri, said Dhukkhan incense is a combination of selected scents that come in form of sticks, mixed with other fragrances, originating from the Arab world. “It is imported from Arab countries, as well as Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Saudi Arabia and others. The combination possibilities are endless,” she said.
She added: “That is why when a Shuwa woman passes by, you will know her class from the scent she’s wearing. It’s when [Kanuri women] realized that they were losing their husbands to Shuwa women because of the power of Dhukkhan that they also started using it. Now Hausa - and even Igbo women - are using it.”
Our respondents said when a Shuwa family is marrying out a daughter, the dowry is the first major requirement, closely followed by money to buy Dhukkhan. “Without money to buy Dhukkhan, you can never marry a Shuwa Arab girl,” said Miss Adama.
The incense is housed in beautifully-decorated vessels, arranged in a cupboard or showcased in a glass case for wedding guests to see on the special day.
Even after giving birth, Shuwa women use Dhukkhan to treat themselves. Miss Adama said after giving birth, “They will put a small amount of Dhukkhan in hot charcoal and sit close to it and cover up with a cloth so the incense vapours would cover them up, with the belief that it will make them healthier and look younger, and also heal them quickly from the effects of childbirth.”
Barrister Aisha Wakil is an Igbo lady who uses Dhukkhan, as she said both Islam and Christianity encourages the use of fragrance. “It can be used in the bedroom, sitting room, on clothes and on one’s body, to smell nice,” she said.
Barrister Aisha explained that when the incense is burned and it fills the air with sweet fragrance, it means a lot to a Kanuri man. “It attracts your husband to you. It also brings joy to a Kanuri man, as even if he doesn’t have appetite for food, the fragrance of Dhukkhan triggers him to eat,” she said.
Adam Saleh is a Maiduguri-based businessman who told Daily Trust that he regularly gives his wife money to buy incense, because he likes it. But he added: “That is why men should not allow their wives to use certain types of Dhukkhan when going out, as that will attract other men.”
At the Monday Market in Maiduguri where the incense is sold in large quantity, Chairman of Dhukkhan traders at the market, Alhaji Basiru Usman said it has been popular for over a century. Though it is largely imported, a substantial part of it is locally produced in the state, with patrons from all over the world.
Alhaji Usman also said: “We sell Dhukkhan in kilograms ranging from N1,000 per kilo depending on the type. People from other states, including the South, all come to buy Dhukkhan. We have the trees used in producing Dhukkhan here in the state but we import the perfume we use in mixing it from countries like United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Sudan and Senegal. We have a big market for it here though insurgency is slowing down our business.”
Fatima Bukar, 30, a Dhukkhan trader in Gwange, also produces the incense locally, including types used as room freshener, body ointment, oil, hair cream, and for clothes. “Young ladies that have identified men that they like will come and I will mix Dhukkhan that they will use to ‘catch’ them. There is power in Dhukkhan,” she smiled.