May, the Month of Roses

Rose is the iconic flower of May. This month, it is at the blooming peak, painting the landscape and spreading its enveloping fragrance through the air. For those who have planned or wish to book a trip to Morocco in May, Dar Darma, an historical riad in the old Medina, serves homemade rose tea and organizes journeys to discover the Valley of Roses: five-hour drive east of Marrakech, toward the heart of Morocco, a distance worth traveling to discover the scenic landscapes that host the production of one of the world’s most prized essences.

Located behind the Atlas Mountains, among dates, fig, oranges and pomegranate trees, surrounded by the contrasts between red earth and green fields along the banks of the Dadès and M’Goun rivers, the Valley of the Roses is the destination of one of Morocco’s most evocative itineraries, which starts in Marrakech and heads to the fortified town of Ait-Ben-Haddou, circumnavigating the Ourika Valley, and continues toward Ouarzazate and Kelaat M’gouna.

The latter became the capital of the essence known as the “rose of May” and still keeps the secrets of master perfumers. Here, the ritual of picking the pale pink petals is followed by Berber-style festivities, with decorations, dances and celebrations. The landscape is suggestive: Kelaat M’gouna is located at the gateway to the Sahara, in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains. Around the village, fields in which rose bushes grow spread for more than 50 kilometers, along the Dadès and M’Goun rivers. Situated at an altitude of 1,500 meters, the fortified village of Kelaat M’gouna is surrounded by kasbahs and cultivated fields, whose vibrant green creates an extraordinary contrast with the typical red of the earth used to build the dwellings and the sparkling reflections of the water of the rivers, which feed lush oases slipping quietly through the rocks.

The native species is the Damask rose, originally from Persia, which according to legend was brought to Morocco centuries ago by a Berber merchant. Every year, during the main growing season, between April and May, it is possible to admire tiny roses popping up everywhere, close your eyes and breathe in the inebriating fragrance that spreads in the air. Annually, local women pick, exclusively in the morning, between 3,000 and 4,000 tons of wild rose buds, which are then dried or used by local distilleries to make rose water, oil and soaps or even for perfume creation, especially by French maisons. The buds are also used for small jewelry and handcrafted creations, or even for making tea, which is aromatic and refreshing, easy to prepare and full of benefits as it is gently cleansing, has relaxing properties, and is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.

Rose tea recipe from Maria, chef

Place five or six fresh rose petals or one teaspoon of dried petals in a cup, add one teaspoon of loose green tea (or the one you prefer), cover with boiling water and let stand, preferably covered, for about 5 minutes. Once ready, filter and sweeten with honey. If desired, you can enrich the rose tea with a small piece of ginger or a few mint leaves, as well as dried orange, violet, lavender, a pinch of nutmeg or a few cloves.

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