Every year in May, millions of brightly colored roses bloom in the small town of El Kelaa M’Gouna, Morocco - or as many refer to it as the Valley of the Roses. This town is famous for its vast sea of pink Persian roses and every year in Spring people from all over the world come to appreciate its beauty. An attendee of this festival might expect to see tons of rose petals being transported to the factories to extract the oils, leaving a trail of rose scent throughout the town. There is also a Rose Queen who is elected to rule over the year’s beautiful flower. The queen has the honor of sitting one of the numerous floats during the parade along with the other nominees. There is also delicious food, camel rides, and singing and dancing from the locals. Visitors can purchase hundreds of different types of rose products in the street markets they have and can also take a tour of the historic rose water distillery.
There are very few hotels in El Kelaa M’Gouna so you may have to stay in a Skoura, or a small bed and breakfast type of home. Another option is to stay in Ouarzazate 85 miles away from the town and just travel to the festival every day. This beautiful event draws over 20,000 people each year to this small town. Along with the festival itself, visitors can go on hikes around the mountainous terrain and visit old Berber ruins along the river that winds through ancient settlements. Wherever you go in or around this town you will be able to enjoy nature.
The livelihoods of the people of El Kelaa M’Gouna rely on the production of rose water and other rose products such as soaps, oils, and perfumes. Creating rose oil is a difficult and time-consuming process. It takes tons of petals to produce only a few liters of the oil. This small town alone produces 3000-4000 petals a year The Damask rose was brought to this area in 1938 by the French. When production of the flower grew exponentially throughout the valley, the town decided to open up a rose water distillery and not too long after that the Rose Festival began and has been an annual tradition since then.
Attending this festival will make you feel like you are in a pink cloud with all of the people and products however if you look out for reserved spots just for tourists you are going to have the best views of the festival. Along with the perfumed streets, you will find women wearing bright head scarves covered in flowers and children draped in rose garlands. The Rose Festival was created so farmers could celebrate the year's crops along with the overwhelming beauty of nature. This festival is one of the most popular events in Morocco and will be for many years to come as long as the sweet flowers keep blooming like they have for almost a hundred years.