Kashan, the center of Isfahan province, which name is tied to Kashan rose water festival, is a very old city. It is a rather small town on the map of Iran. Some researchers say that its name originates from the Kasian. The initial occupants of the city, whose remains are now treasured as historical valuable artifacts at Tapeh Sialk, dating back to almost nine thousand years ago. Between the 12th and the 14th centuries, Kashan was the heart of making quality ceramics and tiles. The Persian word “Kashi”, which means “tile”, comes from here.
Kashan rose water festival attracts many to this city every year. The festival begins in May and ends in June (May 5th to June 5th). The fragrance of rose flowers fills the air and leaves everyone drunk on its paradisiacal freshness, making the city a dream-like re-imagination of Camelot. All this is due to the coming of spring. The city is full of people coming and going from all over Iran and the world to see the beautiful spring of Kashan is highly famous in the world. One of the unique sights of Kashan is, in fact, the Kashan rose water making ceremony. This ceremony holds in parallel with other ancient ceremonies and you can see it in most parts of Kashan. In this article, we are going to take a look at it.
Ghamsar locates 15 km south of Kashan, and is also the heart of making Kashan rose water. People hold rose-picking ceremonies in other parts of Kashan as well, but this festival looks different in Ghamsar, a green city full of gardens. Ghamsar shines with green in Spring. The city is covered with pink roses. Many liken Ghamsar to a green jewel at the heart of the Iranian desert. It also has very good weather conditions. Every year from the beginning of May, people collect thousands of flowers for making rosewater. Many rosewater producers in Ghamsar use industrial methods, but some local producers use traditional and old methods. This ceremony attracts the attention of many domestic and foreign tourists every year.
Iranians were the first to discover the nutritional and healing properties of rose. According to history, the origin of rosewater production is Iran. Mohammadi flower, or rose, is a plant native to Iran. In fact, about 350 years ago, it did not grow in any other region except Iran. During the Safavid period, Rose was exported from Iran to Turkey, Syria, and Bulgaria, along with special rose-picking machines. In the eighth and ninth centuries, Rose was one of the most important commercial goods of Iran and people exported it to China and India via the Silk Road.
They actually taught it to the world. Ibn al-Sina is one of the greatest Iranian scientists who spent much of his life researching and studying the extraction of essential oils by distillation. Many attribute the discovery of rosewater to Ibn-Al-Sina. Rose also holds a very important position in Iranian poetry, especially in the poems of Hafez, symbolizing a range of ideas from the cheeks of the beloved to the transiency of the beauty.
It though made in Kashan, occupies a central role in entire Persian culture. You might wonder why! Iranian people in ancient times used to bury the dead with lots of flowers and petals. Among those, as archeology has now for a long time established, the rose was of higher prominence. Rose is in Persian literature closely related to fire, which is in turn symbolically linked to heaven and eternal life. After the dominance of Islam in Iran, rose came to establish firm associations with Islamic connotations, thereby taking on the name of the Prophet as an attribute and later as an adjective (so it is now called Gol-e-Mohammadi).
It is interesting to know that, according to historical evidence, Iranians were among the first to think of an evaporation and distillation system hundreds of years ago. The last remains of the soul of an ancient way of thinking about making perfume and fragrant water are now found in rose water festivals.
There is a long history informing rose water festival. The story began hundreds of years ago. The remains of Silk Hills, ancient poetry, and travelogues confirm the holding of rose water festival in distant times. When by the blossoming of red flowers, people from all walks of life would set foot in farms and gardens to pick those flowers and busy themselves with the intricate business of making this empyrean perfume. Those who did not have a garden or farm would work for others, and those who did not have the equipment would sell their flowers to others. Folks around here devote part of their home to storing flowers, and what attracts many to Kashan when spring is still in her youth is the traditional way of making Golab (rosewater).
History shows that Iranians are one of the first producers of rosewater and perfume in the world. There is a written record in the book The Images of the Towns written by Abu Zaid Sahl Balkhi (322 AH), “[…] Jor is one of the areas of Ardeshir Khoreh. And its towns are Jor and Meymand […] and the Persian rosewater comes from there, and goes to Daryabar, Hijaz, Yemen, Sham, Egypt, Morocco, and Khorasan”.
Jor is the ancient city Firoozabad, and Meymand rosewater was also known as Firoozabad rosewater. It was famous outside of Iran. In some old books, we read that rosewater was among the primary goods exported from there in a period of economic prosperity in the region. It is one of the major traded goods in Meymand. Therefore, according to historical documents, the writings of historians, and remnants of rose and glass factories (for carrying rosewater) in Meymand, this city was as the starting point of rosewater in Iran and even the world.
People now get out of their houses in spring, with traditional musical instruments of Iran here and there, to welcome the flowers of March and June. The many colors of flowers, mostly belonging to the rose family, make the spring of Kashan a bit different from other Top Tourist Destination in Iran . It is more vibrant, more vitalized, and more beautiful.
In some parts, the festival still holds in its very traditional fashion. Folks still carry flowers on donkeys and camels to the workshops, accompanying them with music and dance. Over the course of recent years, however, Golabgiri (making rose water) has come to include so many interesting rituals. For example, in some parts, it is done mainly by the blind, and the financial gains go straight to help the needy and the poor. In some other parts, people choose to have their weddings during the festival, holding the belief that life started thus ends in everlasting bliss.
In the traditional way, each pound of the petal is put, along with a liter of water, in a copper pot which is put on firewood. The lid is put on, then, and basically, the vapor mix prevents from getting out of the pot by a simple yet nuanced procedure. On the lid of the pot, there is a hole which attaches to steel and aluminum pipes, and the other end of the pipe leads to a pitcher filled with cold water. Vapor created by distillation, after passing through the pipe, gets in the pitcher and infuses the cold water. Golab is ready now, after 5 to 7 hours of hard and skill-demanding work.
Rose oil is a kind of concentrated liquid that people use for perfume. Also, Rosewater use in various foods, sweets, and desserts, such as Halva and Faludah. In addition, it has some traditional medicinal uses and is effective in treating some diseases such as sore throat, heart disease, and headache.
Muslims use Kashan rose water to wash the Kaaba. Because of its religious symbolic value, Iranians use rosewater to wash the gravestones of their departed loved ones too.
There are different kinds of rosewater. Heavy rosewater, or premium rosewater, is, in fact, the first-class type. The producers obtain it by distilling roses at a volume between 30 and 35 kg of Mohammadi flowers along with 80 liters of water. This process results in 40 liters of premium rosewater. It is a high-quality rosewater. You can find it in many Iranian homes.
In preparing light rosewater, the producers use about 15 to 20 kg of rosewater. Due to the decrease in the amount of roses, light rosewater is less expensive than premium rosewater. If, once the rosewater process is done, the rose re-adds to the resulting rosewater and the distillation process repeats on it. What you’ll get is double-fire rosewater. This type of rosewater is highly dense and has a bitter taste. Iranians don’t use this type of rosewater for domestic purposes, but its therapeutic uses are very common.
If the rosewater making process done for the third time, you’ll get triple-fire rosewater. The producers usually make this type in very small quantities and use it for special purposes. After processing rosewater, if you add water to the pulp of rose flowers, and do the distillation again, you’ll get a type of diluted rosewater called post-water, which has low quality and low aroma.
In addition to Iran, roses grow in Bulgaria, Turkey, India, Ukraine, the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan. But the rose that exists in Iran, Mohammadi, is unique. People first planted it in Iran and then sent it to other countries, but Bulgaria, Turkey, and India are also among the pioneers in the production of this flower.
There are 7 types of rose in the world: French roses, wild roses, tea flowers, miniature roses, Bengali roses, and Iranian roses, which the Persian call Mohammadi.
Some believe that when the Miandeh Qamsar Mosque was built during the reign of the Seljuk emperors, the representative of Eastern Romania picked some red roses from the slopes of the Asbi Mountain near Qamsar to take with him to Damascus. They cultivated those roses in Damascus, and it became famous in Europe. This is why it is sometimes called the Rose of Damascus (Damask rose) in English.
Today, Kashan county in Isfahan province is the largest producer of Rosewater in the world. They produce 15 thousand tons of rose each year. Meymand city in Fars province comes second, with 12 thousand tons each year.
Rosewater production plants date back to more than 1000 years ago. Today, along with the traditional methods, modern factories produce rosewater. For example, Dorringolab is a large rosewater factory. It was established in 1998 and still works to produce a wide array of products, including rosewater. Another company is Golchinekashan, which provides rosewater at a reasonable price due to removing intermediate vendors.
Golab is made mainly in Niasar and Qamesar. If you come to Kashan, you should definitely see these places. They are on every Kashan travel guide you put your hands on. Qamesar locates 30 km south of Kashan, and although the name of Golab is more closely tied to Qamesar, in other cities of Kashan, such as Niasar, and villages like Van, Seddah, and Vadeghan, the festival is held in full with inexplicable enthusiasm. Especially in Vadeghan and Van, about 50 km north of Kashan, where there are many gardens and more concentrated rose foliage, rose water is topnotch.
Niasar, an ancient city of Baghshahr, locates 30 kilometers west of Kashan. Apart from the spectacular festival, Niasar Waterfall, a four-story building on the western hills of Niasar, and Niasar Fire Temple are among other tourist attractions.
In the case of having plan to travel to Kashan rose water ceremony in late May, you can go to Vadqan village, 50 km north of Kashan. Since the festival depends on weather conditions and the flowers and blossoms, they produce rosewater here later than in other cities of Kashan. Their rosewater is also denser.
While Kashan rose water is the most popular distilled product, you can also find other quality products in Kashan. Mint water, for example, is very common in Kashan. Other distilled products include Caraway water, Alhagi water, and Chicory water among many others. The production process of all these is similar to that of rosewater. They are popular because of their therapeutic effects.
Since Kashan is a historical and traditional city, there are various monuments and buildings in this city that attract many tourists. These include the Fin Garden, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Fin Bath, the Tabatabai House, the Boroujerdi House, the Ameri House, the traditional Kashan Bazaar, and the Kashan Grand Mosque, among many others.
If your stay in Kashan takes more than a day, you have many choices between eco-lodges and traditional hotels, such as the 5-star Saraye Ameriaha Boutique Hotel, 4-star Ariana Hotel Spa, or Kianpour Historical House Eco-lodge.
Spring is a great season to be in Iran. A wide range of natural sights is there for you to explore, ranging from the northern forests to the central deserts. Kashan, a small county at the heart of Iran, remains unique in offering both fascinating natural landscapes and amazing traditional rituals. Witnessing the rose-picking and rosewater distilling process is an exceptional experience. Rosewater is also a great souvenir of Iran to take back home. Next time you plan to travel to Iran in spring, don’t miss the Kashan rose water festival.