Nearly 2,000 farms grow millions of roses in Taif, Saudi Arabia
Taif, is a small village located in Hedjaz highlands at 1 800 meters, in the south-west of Saudi Arabia. Taif rose has been growing here for centuries and thanks to local know-how and ancestral traditions, an essential oil is produced, which attract numerous and wealthy tourists every year, coming from all over the Gulf region.
Thanks to its remarkable location, Taif – which is one of the most ancient city in the world, lure many tourists every year from all over Saudi Arabia and even neighboring countries. They come to enjoy its mild climate, especially in summer, its mountainous green landscapes, and above all they come for the local specialty : the essential oil extracted from Taif roses.
Taif roses, a local treasure
This town is known as one of the oldest inhabited territories in the world. Taif enjoys an exceptional climate, being located in the western Hijaz highlands, over 1, 800 meters above the sea level on the Sarawat Mountains. This mountain range stretches from southern Jordan to Yemen along the Red Sea. Therefore, its mild and cool climate in summer and its green landscape which benefits from abundant rainfall in winter and summer make Taif being SAudi Arabia’s orchard as well as a popular resort area. But if it’s very famous above all of this, that’s because of its roses !
Nearly 2,000 farms grow millions of roses, only from one species call 30-petal Damask Rose and brought to the region by the Ottoman occupiers three centuries ago. This bright and light pink flowers have a yellow heart which spreads an intense and persistent perfume. They turn every year Taif into a pink flowering carpet and flood the air with their delicate fragrance.
A very precious oil
Taif roses are mainly cultivated to extract essential oil, also called attar, and rose water. The distilling methods have remained the same since centuries, following the old traditions. Flowers are harvested in March and April and boiled in liters of water during 11 to 14 hours. This is how the extract is formed, small drops on the top of water in giant tanks which are hermetically closed.
Taif area doesn’t produce massively, in comparison, compared to its competitors such as Turkey, Bulgaria or Iran. However, the oil is renowned for the quality of its roses and the effectiveness of its traditional methods. Because it takes no less than 25 000 roses to extract only few centilitres of the delicate essence, it is very expansive. At the end of the process, the extract remains pure as it doesn’t undergo any other transformation, nor chemical addition. It is then sold for nearly 450€ each small bottle. Most of the clients are actually wealthy Saudis, or tourists from the Gulf countries who pass by the village, located 65km only from Mecca.
Turn Saudi heritage into tourist attraction
Saudi authorities as well as local producers dream of attracting more foreigners. In order to do so, they offer many activities to enhance this cultural heritage and make this local know-how a tourist attraction. The distilleries also offer tours and the city of Taif welcome each year, in April, the Taif Rose Festival.
During this event, a huge roses carpet forms wonderful features and rolls out on 900 square meters. This is a real floral show that delights visitors. Other artistic and cultural activities take place which celebrate roses over several days.