Every spring roses bloom in the western Saudi city of Taif, turning pockets of the Kingdom’s vast desert landscape a vivid & fragrant pink. In April, they are harvested for the essential oil used to cleanse the walls of the sacred Kaaba in Makkah.
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Thanks to its favorable climate, Taif is home to nearly a thousand rose farms, with aromatic blossoms stretching from Wadi Mahram to Al-Hada. This is perhaps why the city of Taif is no stranger to festivals themed around roses.
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The Arabic word for rose is pronounced warda and written ﻭَﺭﺩَﺓ
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Every spring, farmers head to the fields to harvest beautiful rose petals. They pick tens of thousands of flowers each day to produce rose water and oil, also prized components in the cosmetic and culinary industries.
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Once the hand-picked blooms are gathered in baskets, they are taken to local distilleries where the flowers are sorted, weighed and distilled in giant copper alembics.
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The perfumed oil has become popular among the millions of Muslims who visit the Kingdom every year for pilgrimages.
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Known as the city of roses, with approximately 300 million blooms every year, Taif has more than 800 flower farms, many of which have opened their doors to visitors.
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However, a few centuries ago Taif rose petals were not distilled in Taif at all. They were gathered & transported by camel caravan to the Muslim holy city of Mecca where artisanal Indian distillers were responsible for gently pressing the flowers & extracting the precious oil.
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First, the rose bushes blossom in the valley of Wadi Mahram, then higher up in Al Hada, and finally at 2,500 meters in Al Shafa, the mountains to the south of the city.