He easily navigated the maze made out of rose bushes. It's the perfect time of the year when the green leaves compete with the popping pink glow of the damask roses' blossoms.
He has been to these mountains numerous times and with more than half a dozen guests trailing behind, he was checking for the best spots where he can capture the beauty of the rock roses that had become an attraction at this time of the year.
Securely fastened to his shoulder is a black bag. Inside, his photography gears were neatly positioned in their respective slots. Every so often, the camera was on his hand and whenever he saw something interesting, his eye peered through that tiny little square, and with a series of low-toned buzzes, he has preserved a moment forever. He would give out a tiny grin whenever he captured something interesting and by the end of the day, he has dozens of photos that summarised what would have been the second day of the Amouage Voyage.
Renaud Salmon's gentle demeanour and welcoming nature made him the perfect guide for the Rose Village garden tour. As creative director of luxury perfume brand Amouage, he was hands-on with the well-curated luxury experience outlined for their important guests. Joining him on that Thursday morning in April is an eclectic group of creatives comprised of an actor from Germany, a magazine founder and a talented photographer from France, an Australian Youtuber with her perfume enthusiast French partner, Pierre Negrin — a French perfumer based in New York who has created some of the bestseller fragrances for the brand and Andras Komar, the Global Head of Communications for Amouage. They flew from different parts of the globe not only to be introduced to Oman but also to help them understand and become a part of the Amouage Voyage — an exclusive event giving the elite few a behind the scene look at what defines the brand that has become the gifts of kings.
Renaud led the group on a tour of Al Ain village, one of the most popular stops of the rose village tour. He directed them on which direction to go inwards towards the terrace gardens by the cliff meanwhile taking a different route that allowed him to take photos that showed audiences the grandness of the Jabal Akhdhar's canyon.
Upon introducing the guests to the farmers, Renaud then explained the rituals of the rose harvest — how they are collected by hand very early in the morning, how Ahmed, the chief of the rose harvesters, inspects each of the baskets before they are sent to the factory and how these roses are rushed to the distillation plant for processing.
Interacting with the farmers, the guests were then allowed to try the harvesting ritual of daintily handling the flowers while cutting them from the stems. They then met Abdullah, one of the farmers who owned the traditional distillation plant where Renaud spoke lengthily about the complexity of the process, from building the fire made of branches collected from the rocky mountain to how the oil and rosewater were collected through time tested pottery-driven distillation process.
"You've seen the traditional way of distillation demonstrated in the old village. For Amouage, the system has been modernised with the distillation system made modern to meet international standards," Renaud explained while showcasing big metallic pieces of machinery with modern gauges.
In the next hours, the participants not only smelled the flowers and tested the rose water, but they also went through the ritual of being poured over their heads providing relief from the usually hot, humid temperature of the mountain at noon.
The tour ended with a dinner inspired by some of the most successful fragrances produced by the brand in a dinner dubbed Dining Under the Stars overlooking Oman's grand canyon. Specially curated by the executive chef of Alila Jabal Akhdhar, Epic 56, Lyric, Crimson Rocks and Rose Incense came to life on a plate each bite starting with the inviting smell of the perfume and with a rose-shaped dessert ending the night, it was an experience unlike any other described by one of the attendees as jaw-dropping.
For Renaud, sharing such an experience is one of the best ways to demystify the processes that go behind the scene. He understood the importance of Oman as the base of Amouage and as a product beloved by many, to be let in on the secrets helps create an intimate bond between the brand and its consumers.
The full guest itinerary included swimming with the dolphins at Daymaniyat Islands, a visit to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Nizwa Souq and an appreciation stop at the scenic gardens of Birkat Al Mouz.
For German actor Ben Dahlhaus, the whole experience was eye-opening allowing him to see Oman and the Middle East in a totally different light.
"This was my first time in Oman and the full experience was incredible. The Amouage Voyage was a showcase of everything best about Oman and I would love to come back to see more. Oman is not that known in Germany and from what I've seen and experienced, the potential is amazing. This experience definitely makes me want to come back," he shared.