The rose water lady of Jabal Akhdar

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LAKSHMI KOTHANETH –

If one has been to Jabal Al Akhdar, it is easy to notice the many rose water distillery in the area. They proliferate in this part of the Sultanate because the roses of the mountains are important crops for the farmers.
While many of the residents of the mountains practice rose water distillery to keep century’s old tradition, Fatma bint Mohammed al Amriya had begun to make it her living when she lost her husband. She had three young children and she found solace in this traditional occupation.
Fatma hails from Hail Al Yeman in Jabal Akhdar, and adjacent to her humble abode is a cozy workshop for rose water distillery.
Fatma today drives a four-wheel drive with confidence to get things done. But there was a time she would have never thought of learning to drive because she did not have the need to do it. She bought a car and then learnt to drive because circumstances push her to be strong.
For her business, Fatma rents farms. In addition to what her farm produce, she also buys 10 to 30 kilos of roses.
Just walking into the compound housing the distillery takes one into a different world. Fragrance from the rosewater distillery fills the air. Inside the little cottage, spread out on a cotton cloth, were heaps of fresh pink roses. They are sprayed with water to keep them fresh.
“When my husband passed away this traditional occupation helped me become independent. I used to distill rose water the traditional way. After five years, we adapted the modern method,” Fatma said.
The rose water production helped her to take care of the children as it helped her become financially independent.
“I was not a professional, but practice has given me today 25 years of experience,” she shared.
Although fully embracing the modern methodologies of distilling rose water, Fatma said she still have the traditional urn and use it to this day.
She demonstrated how it’s being used. She explained that the traditional clay urn is filled with roses, which are then pressed down and sealed while its filled with water.
There are two types of rose water – red and white. The red rose water is stronger and so the roses are kept internally for four days.
Fatma has deep appreciation for the pink roses that blooms in plenty around her. Lifting some with her palms and releasing them in the air, she said that they are truly beautiful.
Fatma’s henna dipped fingers also has slight scratches from thorns of the rose plants. She brushes it aside by saying, “I am used to it now. It is nothing.”
“The harvest season begins at the end of March till end of April. It depends on the timing of the weather. If there is rain, the season can extend to one more month,” Fatma explained.
Rosewater is used for food, treatment, drinking and for cleansing purposes. They say rose water can also cure headaches. Drinking it can also calm one down immediately.
Fatma does not have a particular place to supply her rose water but she gets orders and the business has been steadily growing.
Each summer she produces about 400 bottles of rose water.
“It depends on how many orders I receive in one season,” she said.
Her distillery however works throughout the year because other than distilling rose water, she has also begun production of herbal plants.
Fatma makes distilled water of Mai Al Yas, Mai Al Gada, Mai al Alalalan, frankincense and herbal oils — all of the herbs which are known to have medicinal properties and can be found in Jabal Al Akhdar.
Mai al Alalalan for example is used to control high blood pressure and even cancer, according to Fatma.
Fatma’s dream is to take her products even outside the country – just like an entrepreneur.
As for her children – her daughters are married and settled, and her son who studied Arabic and English translation is pursuing French in France. Fatma is set to visit her son in abroad but for the meantime, Fatma is enjoying every bit of working with the fragrant pink roses.