Kelaa-des-Mgouna is the centre of rose production, with two large factories for rose water. Every May, a Rose festival takes place here.
The process of making rose water is quite impressive. In order to make one single litre of rose water, it is needed about 3,000 kilo rose petals. In all of Kelaa-des-Mgouna there are 4,200 km of rose hedges, and all of this has the capacity of only 1,400 litre of rose water. So don’t mind if it has a price.
It is in the last half of May that the grand Rose festival takes place in Kelaa-des-Mgouna. It happens in conjunction with the rose crops of the season. At that time people swarm into the villages of Kelaa-des-Mgouna and celebrate with music, dancing and shopping.
The valley of Kelaa-des-Mgouna is long and narrow, and meanders through the mountains.
Hidden within the Oases of the Dadès Valley is a Moroccan jewel known as the heavenly pink town of El-Kelaa M’Gouna or more affectionately referred to as the Valley of the Roses. The town is famous for its sea of pink Persian rose landscapes. El Kelaa Des Mgouna has a vast distilling plant, Capp et Florale that accounts for producing litres of rose water popular in the nation’s cooking and perfumery. The rose capital also produces other goods made of eau de rose such as hand and body soaps, oil, crème perfume and dried flowers that are popular among Moroccans and tourists.
The Damask rose was brought to El Kelaa Des Mgouna in 1938 by the French. At that time El Kelaa Des Mgouna’s first rose water distillery was opened. Shortly after the first Rose Festival began and has been a tradition ever since.
In the Valley of Roses will find miles of pink, small Persian roses-cultivated as hedgerows dividing the plots of land. In spring, you can buy a garland of fragrant roses from one of the Berber children who line the route.
During the month of May, an annual three-day Rose Festival takes place in the Valley of the Roses. Morocco’s Rose Festival occupies the souk area of El Kelaa Des Mgouna, the town responsible for the rosy festivities. During this time, travelers come from all over to attend the festivities where a Rose Queen is elected to reign over the year’s scented crop.The factories in El Kelaa Des Mgouna produce 3000-4000 petals a year. With ten tons of petals required to produce a few liters of precious oil, the harvest is understandably a labor of love and the culminating festivities of the annual Rose Festival are all the livelier for it.
Surprisingly, Rose water is expensive for Moroccans. The reason for its price tag is the fact that the four thousand two hundred kilometers of rose hedges can only produce one thousand four hundred liters of the product. The process uses approximately three thousand kilograms of rose petals to extract a liter of rose oil. Visitors who attend the Festival of Roses will therefore see tons of rose petals being transported to the factories to extract the precious oils, leaving a trail of rose scent throughout the town.
As with all festivals in Morocco, the annual Rose Festival boasts delicious food alongside traditional Berber local tribes singing, dancing, displaying sword maneuvers and playing traditional musical instruments; plus a parade of floats with the nominees for Ms. Roses who sit upon them.
Unique to this festival are the rose perfumed streets, Moroccan women wearing traditional head scarves decorated with bright colored velvety flowers, and boys and girls wearing rose-garlands. Floral decorated floats, camel-rides, and an excursion organized by the festival coordinators to take a bus ride from Ouarzazate to the Valley of the Roses are a few of the highlights available to all.
The crowds at the festival are thick as a pink cloud; however, if you are a traveler you are in luck. Look for a spot reserved for tourists and dignitaries for the best views of the festival. Don’t forget to look out for well dressed women in pink organaza and tulle and men dressed in white turbaned robes.
The purpose of the festival is for rose farmers to celebrate the year’s crops and to celebrate the beauty of nature. The Rose Festival is one of the prettiest and most popular celebrations in Morocco. Visitors come to enjoy breathing in the sweet scents of the petals as well as being surrounded by the natural beauty of the Drâa valley and the High Atlas Mountains.