My sandalwood bottle fell to the ground and while collecting the powder it reminded me of my mother’s favorite body scrub, sandalwood in olive oil. I love the light yet captivating scent of sandalwood and even though olive oil is not one of my favorite scents, it is a good moisturizer and is perfect for all skin types. How did my mother know about it? From her Sudanese friend. Smelling it this morning was quite nostalgic, I used to smell the scent in all of my mother’s Sudanese friends when we hugged. I remember them being busy mixing different types of fragrant wood into an oil to make a paste which would later be shaped into balls. Armed with these memories I hit Google search to try and find out more of what was going on back then. After a number of tries with different key words, I stumbled upon a site that is dedicated to Sudanese culture and extracted the following description on making and the use of Dilka.
That sensual smell from our Sudanese family friends that is till alive in the back of my memory must have been Dilka:-)
Dilka is used by women as an exfoliating scrub that leaves the skin soft and perfumed and only married women are allowed to use it. It has been noted that women who use dilka frequently, have a supple, clean, fragrant, and healthy skin. John Petherick, a traveler who visited the Sudan in the eighteenth century, submitted unwillingly to this procedure. He described its effects, saying:
“The following morning I woke quite revived; the feverishness had entirely subsided and with a calm and refreshing sensation through my limbs and body.”
It takes 3-5 days to prepare the dilka dough. The principal ingredients are
, sorghum or durra (durum) flour. Alternatively, millet flour or even orange peel is used. It is called dilka murra (bitter) if unscented and hulwa (sweet) if scented. Powdered ‘Mahleb’ (Prunus mahaleb) seeds and cloves are soaked in water and let to steep for several hours. It is then strained through a fine strainer, the seeds discarded and the watery extract gradually added to the flour and kneaded by hand into soft dough.
To the dough, different amounts of finely ground fragrant woods are added such as tahlih wood (Acacia seyal – shittah tree), shaff (Terminalia brownie), and sandalwood, as well as powdered mahlab, qurunful (Cloves), and dufr (operculum) and sometimes zabad (Cuttle-fish bone.) This basic mixture is called al-marbou’ and if luban (Frankincense) and simbil (Spikenard) are added then it is called al-makhmous.
This paste is spread on the inside of a bowl (traditionally wooden). The bowl is the
n inverted over a container or a dug hole with smoking aromatic woods such as shaff, sandal, and talh. The durra paste is enriched with the fragrant smoke of the woods. At regular intervals, a handful of the powdered fragrant blend mentioned above is added and kneaded in, until the material is cooked and the right fragrance achieved.
Once the paste has cooled to this will be added kabarait, a blend of traditional scents such as musk, surratiyya (Crude oil of cloves), zait sandaliyya (Crude sandal oil), or majmou (clove and sandal oil), and baida(mahleb oil) may be added, as well. To make a special dilka, sugar, favourite liquid perfumes, and zait al-ni’am (Ostrich fat) are also added. Popular perfumes often added are Bint el Sudan and Reve d’ Or (1889) but more about that later.
This is then scraped from the bowl and sometimes further scented by spreading it on top of a mesh and smoking it with bakhur (incense). Otherwise, it is formed into small balls and preserved in huqs (airtight wooden pots) until needed. The smoking also cures the dilka as it stays preserved longer than other types of similar paste.
Have you tried sandalwood as an exfoliator? Share your experiences with us.
This article was written by a proffesional Tanzanian Make Up artist. If you are looking to do your make up for any occassion please contact me on +255683948804
To learn more about the Sudanese woman’s culture visit