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Connecting to Roses in Turkey, Istanbul. and glimpse of Roses history.

You have probably bought, used, or smelled the Turkish rose, botanically known as Rosa damascena and commonly known as Damask rose. It is one of the most known and used roses in the world. Its magical fragrance, its pink colors, its myths and stories, make it one of the most loved and accessible roses.

Primarily cultivated in “the city of roses”, Isparta in the southwest region of Turkey, this region is the biggest producer of Turkish rose oils in the world. Its rose has different properties and medical benefits: it is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, cardio-protective, antioxidant, anti-tussive, etc. To know more about the benefits of this rose, read Elizabeth’s book available here about the Rose Goddess Medicine.

This rose is also used as a herbal tea, and to make rosewater, rose syrups, honey with roses, and jams. We can find it in many cosmetics and beauty-related products as the rose is effective for treating pigmentations, and other skin conditions.

The rose, or gül as it is called in Turkish, has been blossoming throughout Turkey for centuries.

Here are some very interesting articles on its history in Anatolia *turkey:

The rose: A flower with deep roots in Turkish culture by BY JENNIFER ÇELIK in Daily Sabah.

“One of the earliest sources of information on rose-water production is found in Anatolia, where water was produced in Nusaybin, near Mardin. It is said that the rose water produced in this region is unique in its fragrance and its taste. The fragrant water was stored in beautiful copper jugs or vessels called Kumgans.
These unique jugs are mentioned in Historical writings showing that Turkic people of the 11th century were producing and using rose water. …. Rose water was commonly used in the hammams or Turkish baths to cleanse the body, due to its refreshing fragrance, leaving one smelling of freshly picked flowers. The rose does not only smell delightful, but tastes delightful too! The unique taste of the rose could be found in many delightful Ottoman dishes, and was an influential part of the palace cuisine. Rose water and rose products, such as rose confection and syrups, were used abundantly during Ottoman rule. The most popular use, however, was in the flavoring of desserts such as ice cream, jam, Turkish delights, rice pudding, yogurt and sherbet.It was a customary tradition for the Ottomans to offer rose water to the guests that attended the palace for special meetings and events. This custom was a special tradition, and was not only practiced at the palace, but also among the commoners in their homes. Rose water could be purchased from large copper bowls at the local Bazaars in the city.”

When you visit the Topkapı Palace, you discover many roses along the walls, or in the gardens located in the south of the palace. One of them is known as Gülhane, "rose house" in Turkish where the roses water was produced in the royal palace where Ottoman sultans resided for more than 350 years.

ISSUE: 96. Page: 40-53. By K. Hüsnü Can Baser PhD, Ayten Altintas PhD, Mine Kürkçüoglu PhD. The Rose in Islam

“Rose water was offered during the banquets and meetings at the palaces of sultans, viziers, and high-ranking administrative officers. It was an ingredient of the famous fragrant soaps (miski) prepared in the Helvahane (halva kitchen) of the Topkapi Palace, as well as in other substances cooked there. The Helvahane Book, a register of the goods and substances bought for and prepared in the Helvahane, reports that fresh roses, rose water, and rose sherbets were purchased from Edirne. During the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, rose sherbet, rose confection (gul-i mukerrer), and other rose products occupied an important place among the comestibles bought for the Palace...”

Sultan Mehmet II

In Islam

In Islam, the rose is also known as the flower of Heaven and each year, the black cloth of the Kaaba's is sprinkled with rose water from Iran or Turkey, and rose oil is burnt in Ka'ba's oil lamps.

When Sultan Mehmet II entered Istanbul in 1453 as a conqueror, he had Aya Sophia (Saint Sophia) church washed with rose water before converting it into a mosque.

Melvana Rumi, a great Sufi mystic and poet in Turkey, who widely influenced mystical Islamic thought and literature, wrote many poems citing the rose:

"What is the scent of the Rose? The breath of reason and intelligence, a sweet guide on the way to the eternal kingdom."

"That which God said to the rose

and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty,

God said to my heart

and made it a hundred times

more beautiful.”

“I’m created from the ecstasy of love

and when I die my essence

will be released like the scent of

crushed rose petals.”

If you want to connect with roses in Turkey?

Even if Turkey has a rich history of roses, I didn’t see it much used in Turkish desserts or meals, only in a few gift packages for tourists which didn’t feel very authentic to me to be honest! However, it was present in many cities, gardens, houses and palaces, a sweet faraway remembrance of what was.

Yet, if you want to connect with roses in Anatolia, and with Isparta being known as “the land of roses”, know that every year a festival of roses is held in May and June, where

many rose fields are visited, and participants get the chance to experiment rose harvesting.

They can also take a tour to visit the factories where the roses are processed and learn more about the extraction of oil.

With love,

Ouassima Issrae,

Read more about Roses in my book

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