morocco rosesThose who are romantics at heart are likely to swoon at the opportunity to visit Kalaat M’gouna, especially in the spring. This city in the Dades Valley is famous for one thing: roses. Kalaat M’gouna means Valley of the Roses and the city itself is named after the nearby Mount Mgoun.

In the late spring months, the city is literally covered in roses. A pink carpet as far as the eye can see dots the otherwise brown landscape. It is believed that pilgrims who arrived in Morocco from Saudi Arabia brought rosa damascena, the variety of roses that are grown in this region, with them in the 10th century, and they continue to play a part in the city’s culture today.

If you visit during the first week in May, you can observe the annual rose festival. There is never a set date for the festival as it depends on the harvest season. Expect a lot of local Berber musicians playing traditional instruments and dancing (you can search for more of this on our blog about Morocco). There is also a parade and numerous booths set up by artisans and food vendors.  Garlands of roses are sold by local children for a very small price.

Tons of rose petals are harvested every year to be made into rose water for culinary and beauty purposes. It can take many tons of petals just to make a few liters of rose water. Roses are picked by hand and then transported to small distilleries in the area to be processed. There are also factories in Casablanca that buy much of the harvest. If you decide to purchase rose water from the numerous sellers of this prized product, keep in mind the water should be clear in color. There are many synthetic versions of the product that are usually pink in color. True rose water is not pink.

There are many opportunities around Kalaat M’gouna to simply enjoy nature. It is possible to go for a short walk or a much longer hike in the mountainous terrain. Near Kalaat M’gouna is the town of Bou Thaghrar, a small but inhabited Berber settlement. There are many old dwellings that are now in ruins as well as a river that winds through the settlement.

Visitors can stay overnight in Kalaat M’gouna but the city is only 85 miles from Ouarzazate, which makes it an ideal day trip. One hour east of the city is the Todgha Gorges near the city of Tinerhir. This canyon was carved out of the mountains by the Todgha River and is a popular destination for rock climbers. There are many Berber villages nearby as well including the famous city of Imilchil where the yearly wedding festival occurs.

Written by Amanda Mouttaki.

Photo by Serenae.