of the Jabal
THE rose gardens of Al Jabal al Akhdar the Green
Mountain are a sight to behold: hundreds upon hundreds
of rose bushes growing on terraces cut into the side of a mountain,
cascading all the way down to the bottom of the gorge.
bushes, source of the prized Omani rose essence, are cultivated
in terraced gardens in Al Jabal al Akhdar.
In April, swathes of this rocky and rugged landscape break out
in a spectacular bloom of bright pink, as the famous roses of
Al Jabal al Akhdar blossom in their millions exuding a rich fragrance
all around the countryside.
dawn each day, these rose gardens are filled with the light-hearted
banter of men and women plucking the petals of full-blown roses.
The harvest is collected in a sheet of cloth, gathered in a bundle
and taken to one many traditional extraction units set up by villagers
in these parts.
This ritual is replicated in many hamlets around
the Saiq Qahtana plateau in what is the dominant pursuit of villagers
during the March-April rose season.
Aqar is one of several villages at the heart of the rose water
cultivation and extraction business in these mountains. The gardens
lie just beyond a jumble of stone-and-mud houses interspersed
with a few modern dwellings.
of roses blossom during
March-April season in the Green Mountain
to these gardens, overlooking the mighty Wadi al Mayahi gorge,
is by way of a narrow path clinging to the mountains edge.
Often, the path merges with an aqueduct channelling the waters
of bounteous mountain springs to the terraced gardens.
bin Ahmed al Mayahi, a veteran of the rose water extraction trade,
says demand for Omani rose essence often outstrips supply.
Demand has been increasing over
the years, but not many bottles of rose water remain in stock
beyond the extraction season. Its good business for the
100-odd essence makers like me in the jabals.
RO5 per 750ml of rose essence, Omani rose water is the priciest
in the local market. Other imported commercial brands vary in
value from RO1.5 RO2 per bottle.
to Al Mayahi, buyers are willing to pay this premium value for
Omani rose essence because it outshines other brands in the quality
and flavour department. Its primary use is in the making of Omani
halwa which, without the essence of Al Jabal al Akhdars
roses, is deprived of its extravagant flavour and rich taste.
veteran essence-maker gathers
harvest of rose petals
Tradition-minded Omanis also add a dash of the rose water to a
range of hot and cold beverages, and as flavouring in food dishes
cupful of the essence is also believed to be good for heart, while
applied to the scalp, it is believed to ease headaches as well.
Its potential for use in exotic perfumes and fragrances is yet
to be tapped, say local villagers.
Despite the overwhelming demand for Omani rose
water, the extraction process is as primitive as the origin of
this trade. Essence-makers have thumbed their noses at a modern
technique proposed by government experts, insisting their ancient
technique ensures production of top quality rose essence.
process is rudimentary: An earthen pot, sealed within a hearth,
is stuffed with petals and heated for about two hours. The essence
condenses into a metal container placed within the pot. The condensate
is cooled and filtered several times, yielding a clear liquid.
100 people are involved in the traditional
rose water manufacturing trade in Al Jabal al Akhdar
Al Aqars essence makers often labour in hot, clammy rooms
simultaneously working several hearths at a time. But the bother
is well worth it says, Salim Saif al Toobi, who netted a profit
of over RO1,000 in rose water sales last year for just
two months of hard work.
As in the case of the date cultivation and harvest
business, rose growers often hire out their bushes to professional
essence-makers at the rate of about RO20 per bush.
bush yields about 15-20kg of petals during the season, while it
takes about 2kg of petals to generate 750ml of essence valued
at RO5. With the demand for Omani rose essence as strong as ever,
the arithmetic works out in everyones favour grower,
extractor, seller and halwa-maker included.
essence-maker at work in
Jabal al Akhdar
When the rose season ends, the farmers of the jabals then turn
their attention to a range of Mediterranean-style fruits that
are cultivated here, each similarly commanding premium prices.
eyes, however, will be on the most luscious of the jabals
fruits the pomegranate which like last year, promises
a bountiful harvest this time around as well.
Adapted from Oman Observer. Nizwa.NET is not responsible for contents.