Monthly Story 7

Jack Johnson - Never Know

Nestled on the slopes of the Dades Valley sits Kelaat M’Gouna. Close to this inconspicuous little town flows the Dadès river, which enables farmers to plant nuts, vegetable and fruit in the area. However, it’s the culture and harvest of the Dadès rose that draw visitors to the Valley every month of May for the rose festival. 

Harvesting season lasts for three weeks - while the roses are in full bloom - and everyone gives a hand. 

At dawn, the women start roaming the fields and picking the lush roses full of dew, before the burning sun gets too high in the sky. They shy away from us, even though they know our guide and we are trying to make ourselves as discreet as possible. We hide the camera and keep a respectful distance, slowly following them among the bushes. 

The women then bring their huge loads to one of the distilleries dotting the town. 

It’s a cooperative effort; while the women strain under the heat and their precious bundles up and down the mountain, the men have to patiently extract litres of rose water and rose oil out of kilos of petals. Rosebuds are also collected and dried on huge metal trays for decorative purposes. 

The people’s joint enterprise culminates with the festival. Every year, the rich and inimitable fragrance of the rose welcomes more than 300.000 visitors in May, where locals celebrate the end of the harvest and the most beautiful rose of all – Miss Rose. 

Tradition is paramount in rural Morocco; it permeates daily life to its core –culturally, financially, sociologically. If the dreamy look in the eyes of locals just before the festivities and the palpable atmosphere of relief and anticipation are any indication, this occasion is extremely precious on so many levels for the inhabitants of the valley.