For centuries, rose water has been prized and used in medicine, food, perfume and cosmetics. After a meal, hands are washed with rose water and during travel rose water is a welcomed source of hydration. It is also a key ingredient in Omani cuisine in particular traditional desserts. The Sultanate of Oman produces one of the purest rose waters in the world from the fragrant damask rose found at the peak of the Jebel Akhdar Mountains in the Al Dakhiliya region.
The third week of March to the middle May is a crucial period in the lives of the farms located in the Jebel Akhdar Mountains. Once a year a small window offers the farmers the unique opportunity to cultivate the superb damask rose. The mountains turn into a stunning shade of pink and the alluring scent of rose surrounds the area. Rose harvesters quickly gather the blossom in sheets of cloth immediately to ensure they retain their potent fragrance. The rose petals are distilled in Al Duhjan ovens, simmered for a few hours in an Al Burmah container before their water is gathered in a copper pot and sealed in the Al-Karas for thirty days. The rose water is then packed and made ready for distribution. The process is so mesmerizing that tourists flock from the region to watch it and buy rose waters in bulk to take back home.
Rose water has been cultivated and distilled as early as the 9th century when Arabs identified its immeasurable potential. Al Kindi, the famed Iraqi scientist first wrote about rose water in his book “The Chemistry of Perfume and Distillations” in which he cites the use of rose water in perfume recipes.
In Oman, the techniques and skills have been handed down each generation for just over a millennia and is a cultural activity protected by the government. Rose water has been used for religious ceremonies and to refresh linen. Left over petals are used as fertilizer to ensure next year’s crop.
The rose waters farms are on what is now known as the Silk Road, an ancient trade route. Jebel Akhdar is the second highest peak in the region and is located three hours away from Muscat and boasts scenic landscapes, wadis and natural terraces of apricots, pomegranate, and walnuts. The mountains are also home to quaint tribal villages and benefits from a pleasant Mediterranean climate.