1927 – The holy smoke from Thibais, first day, part three.

Pilgrim Jacques is given an explanation in the frankincense factory by Boris.

They export from Thibais to the Holy Mountain and to every corner in the world. The burning of incense is a human custom that goes back to ancient societies, The Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greek and the Roman all burnt their incense for a wide variety of reasons. The religious use of incense binds Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox-Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and many other religions. It’s a holy smoke in many cultures. And apparently one of the world’s first trading goods, more valuable than gold in one time.
The little factory gets its ingredients in jute bags filled with Arabic gum (Gum Olibanum, as is printed on the jute) are imported. It comes from the resin of a tree called Boswellia sacra. This tree is mainly to be found in the Arabic Peninsula (Oman) and also from northern Somalia. It was an important trade route (the incense-route) in Ancient, pre-Christian, times. Now, part of the route is Unesco World heritage, both in the Negev desert as in Oman. The importance of incense is stressed by the precious and expensive gifts those three wise men from the East brought, gold, frankincense and myrrh.The resin is bathed in clay dust to prevent cluttering. And then certain flavors are added to give the essence its distinctive characteristics. Ambre, chypre, lemon and mimosa for instance.
The poor monk in this grave died not so long ago, Boris told us. He was only in his fifties. He had eaten a bean soup. But the beans were no good. He suffered intense pains in his stomach which worsened and worsened. Doctors and hospitals were too far away and too late. The unfortunate monk passed away. Death can be a bean away.
The entrance door to the kitchen where we left our luggage and where we enjoyed our morning coffee with Boris, reminds us of our mortality.  Very close to the two graves, turning towards the mountain, there is a stunning uninterrupted view of mount Athos.  Probably one of the best views. On the improvised bench, left in the picture, Boris likes so sit and meditate. I don’t need much imagination to see him there, now.Boris was so kind to show us the path to the road. It is a steep path along a deep ravine. Boris showed his excellent condition with his ferocious pace. Above Thibais is a dirt road where a four wheel drive was parked. We said goodbye and he wished us a good journey. If we would take the right path after half a mile we would be on the right track to Chilandariou.

The burnt trees still lay down four years after the horrendous fire.
A final view on Thibais and the mountain. It was visit way off the beaten track. Just before big changes are going to happen. Changes that make us feel a bit nostalgic; why improve paradise? We felt sad for the monks that they have to endure all the noise and all the changes that will distract them from their daily routines and will bring them a bit further away from the paradise in which they live now.

Bas Kamps

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1 Response to 1927 – The holy smoke from Thibais, first day, part three.

  1. Sean Surlow says:

    Very Nice Photo-Essay. Thanks. 😉 Sean

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