Travelling through the Dadès in spring, you’ll find Skoura’s fields divided by the bloom of thousands of small, pink Persian roses – cultivated as hedgerows dividing the plots. At El KELÄA DES MGOUNA (also spelt QALAT MGOUNA), 50 Km east across another shaft of semi-desert plateau, there are still more, along with an immense Kasbah-style rose-water factory with two prominent chimneys. Here, the Capp et Florale company distil the eau de rose. In late May (sometimes early June), a rose festival is held in the village to celebrate the new year’s crops: a good time to visit, with villagers coming down from the mountains for the market, music and dancing.
The rest of the year, El Kelâa single, rambling street is less impressive. There’s a Wednesday souk, worth breaking your journey for, but little else of interest beyond the locked and deserted ruins of a Glaoui Kasbah, on a spur above the river. The local shops are always full of eau de rose, though, and the factory can be visited, too, for a look at – and an overpowering smell of – the distillation process. A second factory, Aromag, alongside the mobil petrol station, 13 Km out along the Tinerhir road, can also be visited; it is run by a French company, based – of course – at Grasse.
One of a hundred varieties, Rosa Centifolio have, as the name implies, hundreds of small leaves on each small bush. Folklore has it that they were brought from Persepolis by the Phoenicians. Aerial Photographs testify to there being 4200Km of low hedges; each metre yields up to one kilo of petals and it takes ten tons of petals to produce two to three litres of rose-oil. The petals are picked by women who start very early in the morning before the heat dries the bloom.
Vallée des Roses
If you have transport, this “secret valley” of the asif M’Goun, north of El Kelâa, would make a good one-day Excursion, or a detour en route to Boumalne. The valley begins due north of the town and is trailed by the minor road 6903 to TOURBIST and BOUTHARAR, where the 6904 leads south back to EL GOUMT ; both should be practicable with a Renault 4L. In spring, the route is lined by thousands of roses, and there is a notable Kasbah at Bou Tharar.