Museums, Exhibitions & GalleriesArts, culture, heritage

The Perfume House Pavilion

Al Shindagha Museum, Dubai, UAE
Al Shindagha Museum
Surface area
14,251 sq ft / 1,324 m²
Completion date
visitors experience the world of perfumes and incense
GSM Project

The Perfume House was once the residence of Sheikha Shaikha Bint Saeed Al Maktoum, renowned perfumer and aunt of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, current Emir of Dubai.

GSM Project
GSM Project
GSM Project

The museum features over 60 archaeological and historical artefacts related to perfumery.

Fragrance: the heart of the experience

Several of these invaluable items are from Sheikha Shaikha Bint Saeed Al Maktoum's personal collection. Others, including this 3,000-year-old incense burner, bear witness to a thousand-year-old local tradition. Also featured are the social dimensions that perfumes and fragrances take on in Emirati society, traditions which are unique in the world. This pavilion sheds light on these fascinating practices through objects, multimedia, and of course, through many different scents.

Craig Strydom

A 1.2m high piece of an oud weighing 28kg from the collection of Sheikha Shaikha.

GSM Project
GSM Project
How to make the intangible tangible?

The challenge in developing this exhibition lay in the immaterial nature of perfume, incense and the practices surrounding them. Often private and relying on the oral transmission of practices from generation to generation, the stories surrounding Emirati fragrances cannot be told through artefacts and scents alone. How can thousands of years of rituals, practices and perfume recipe traditions be honoured and explored in an exhibition?

GSM Project
Two universes of fragrance: public and private

GSM Project developed an experience which imparts an appreciation of uniquely Emirati fragrances and culture. We accomplished this by first bringing visitors into the public world of perfumes (ingredients, trade) and then by plunging them into the private and personal world of meaningful traditions and applications of perfumes and incense. The significance is deepened still by exploring personal perspectives, family recipes and memories. Finally, poetry which reveals metaphors and mentions of scent is presented in immersive and multisensory ways. Visitors even get the opportunity to create their own personalized fragrances.

GSM Project


Emiratis’ relationships to scents involve family, events, tradition, poetry and ritual. These began thousands of years ago and continue until today. GSM Project created a permanent exhibition to honour this important dimension of Emirati society, and invite visitors to experience the intangible world of perfumes and incense for themselves.