Abdullah Salim is already in his 70s but he is not showing any sign of slowing down. He took over his family’s rose water distillery almost 30 years ago having learned the process at a very young age from his father and decades later, the Ramadhan season amid the pandemic does not slow down the work that they have to do.
Ramadhan happens to usually fall during the last two weeks of the rose harvest season which in the past has been a challenge but not, with the aid of paid workers, they can now do faster and more efficiently.
“The distillation process can last for many days. After harvesting the roses, the work merely just began’’, he said.
“For every 2 kgs of rose petal, we will be able to produce nearly a quarter of a litre. The more rose petals we collect, the longer the process will be’’, he shared.
Abdullah’s small distillery and the farm he owns is a popular place amongst guests to visit. He originally lived in one of Jabal Akhdhar’s mud and brick villages but due to many challenges, have to upgrade the distillery process particularly the use of the oven.
“A lot of the things we use here, from the earthen pots to the lids, to the dahjan, these are all passed down from our fathers. We wanted to keep the tradition alive. These tools also give the rose water produced in Jabal Akhdhar its distinct smoky taste and flavour’’, he said.
Once all the flowers are harvested, there are times that Abdullah and other distillers like him have to tightly watch the distillation process for three days. It can sometimes be longer depending on the number of roses to process.
“It comes with experience but they know when is the right time to check if the rose water process is finished’’, Hamdan al Saqri, a farm owner and entrepreneur from Jabal Akhdhar said.
With Ramadhan and the days of fasting, Abdullah and other distillers like him have to watch out for all their actions to avoid breaking their fast.
“Ramadhan usually starts at the final part of the rose harvest. We have to make sure that we plan ahead to observe the holy month properly. But work continues’’, he said.
The days between March and April are crucial period not only for flowering plants but also for fruit-bearing crops. Jabal Akhdhar does not only produce rose water but it is also a place where olives, pomegranates, dates, figs and other fruit-bearing trees can be found.
Al Saqri, who owns Fawah, a company that taps into local ingredients for their aromatics and essential oils, explained that during this period, all the other trees are starting to blossom.
“I would say that during this time is the most beautiful time in Jabal Akhdhar as all the plants seem to bloom in unison’’, he said.
“You will notice the pomegranates, fig trees, olives starting to flower. They will have different maturity dates and harvest season but a lot of them start blossoming during this period’’, he shared.
“So the work of the farmers, tending into these roses and trees, just began. They have other plants too, from garlic to other spices and even herbs. Ramadhan comes but yes, work continues for everyone here in the mountain’’, he shared.