A reminder that if you want to "smell the roses" then get ready for the 51st edition of the Festival of Roses in the village of Kalaat M'gouna from 9 to May 12
This participatory approach has combined the efforts of all local authorities in synergy with the population of the 25 municipalities within Kalaat Gouna, the aim being to give more visibility to the opportunities offered by the region but also the constraints that stand in the way of future development. To do this, several committees were formed (logistics, scientific, cultural, artistic, exhibitors and reception). It is hoped that the efforts on the project for development of this sector will help to promote the work of local people and the women in particular.
Yet there are some problems, as Elhoussaine Ouhlisse, President and Founder of Saghrou Centre for Studies and Communication, explains, "The pink Kalaat M'gouna rose products have no labeling or protected geographical indication or certification!" His objective is to get locals involved in the development of the city and especially to allow local products to have labels and certifications. The centre will give a series of lectures at the Rose Valley on May 10 to discuss ways to promote the products of the city.
The risk if the rose has not been certified "protected geographical indication" is that anyone can come from abroad to Kalaat M'gouna, buy rose oil and return home to make products based on the product without ever having to mention the origin of the rose. This is what happened with the scandalous American-Israeli brand MoroccanOil . The company made a fortune with cosmetics whose basic element is argan oil from Morocco, but it never mentions the origin of the oil, preferring to say "Made in Israel" on the packaging bottles.
Yet the pink Kalaat M'gouna rose is known worldwide as a quality product. "The rose originally from Damascus, also grows in Turkey, Hungary and Pakistan. But Morocco is one of the best because it is the most natural and is also known for its unique fragrance," says Elhoussaine Ouhlisse.
In addition to labels to protect the product from Moroccan soil, Elhoussaine also has another purpose: to make the pink Kalaat M'gouna become an organic product to increase sales internationally, especially to cosmetics professionals. He explained that farmers of Kalaat M'gouna do not have enough awareness of the richness of these roses and don't hesitate to plant roses near wheat or vegetables to delineate their plots. Consequence: roses are flooded with fertiliser and pesticides. Elhoussaine Ouhlisse wants to encourage farmers to produce more organic roses but without increasing the area of land.
Each year the harvest takes place during two weeks in May. "Today 2,000 tons of roses are harvested annually in the city. The ideal would be that amount to 6,000 tons," he hopes.
50 years and still no patronage!
The traditional rose harvest festival has been celebrated for over 50 years, making it one of the oldest festivals in Morocco. Yet the festival enjoys no royal patronage, as is the case for the majority of cultural and agricultural events in the kingdom. Patronage would allow the event to attract the interest of the public and the authorities. But organizers have never asked for this patronage. Elhoussaine Ouhlisse hopes to win this patronage by next year.
Morocco is famous throughout the world for its superb rose oil (known as rose otto from the Arabic itr, meaning perfume) and the Rose Festival in El Kelaa M'Gouna is a wonderfully perfumed event worth attending. But because the "valley of the roses" is some six hours drive from Marrakech and accommodation is limited, it is worthwhile making plans well in advance.