Rose Water Series: Rose Water In Turkey
One of the places where rose water has a rich history and also plays a very prominent role in today’s culture is in Turkey. Dating back to Ottoman times, roses were used in everyday life and were enjoyed by much of the ruling class as well as among the general population. Here, I will talk about the history of rosewater in the Ottoman empire and how that has translated into its popular use in Turkish culture today.
Roses are not new to the Anatolian and Eastern Mediterranean regions. In fact, certain discoveries indicate that the mesmerizing flower has been used for thousands of years including by the Hittites, who used it for natural remedies. Turkic tribes in the region were found to have been using it during the 11th century onwards. For the Ottomans, Edirne served as one of the main production sites of rose water.
Back in the day it was common for rose water to be stored in copper jugs called kumgans. For Ottoman royalty however, these jugs were far more ornate and made from more expensive material like gold, silver, porcelain and glass. It was usually decorated and pear shaped. The pear shape allowed a good amount of it to be stored in a bottle, with its narrow spout allowing for a limited flow of the rose water. This can be poured into the hands of guests for scent or in celebratory occasions like Eid and Mawlid (Mevlid) of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
It doesn’t stop at special occasions though. Rose water was used for a number of purposes across all social classes. Take a look at this list of fun facts about the use of rose water throughout Ottoman history and in Turkish society today:
- The Ottomans used rosewater to scent the kiswa of the Kaba every year. As they were the custodians of the two Holy Sites back then, they took on the responsibility of preparing for the Hajj (Muslim Pilgrimage) season every year. This tradition continues on today.
- Due to its various healing properties, it was mentioned in every medical textbook in the Ottoman era since the 14th century.
- It was commonly consumed in Topkapi Palace as a rose sherbet to help relieve nausea and indigestion and as an antidepressant and sedative.
- It was normal for Ottoman women to use rosewater for beautification and skin enhancement
- Sultan Mehmet ordered the cleaning of Aya Sofya with rose water before converting it into a mosque in 1453 following the conquest of Constantinople
- Gulhane park was created by the Ottoman royal family for their love of roses, and it is still one of the most visited places in Istanbul today. Gulhane Park is the garden adjacent to Topkapi Palace. Gulhane literally means “Rose House”.
- The famous Turkish Hammams also used rose water to add a refreshing smell
- Certain mosques like Eyup Sultan have their carpets scented with rose water before Friday Prayer (Juma).
- It is used today in Turkey to flavor desserts such as turkish delights, yogurt, baklava, sherbet, rice pudding and ice cream
Today, Turkey stands as one of the larger producers of roses and rose water in the world. In the last 5 years, approximately 500 million roses have grown in Turkey with an increase in production year over year.
The roses used in Turkey today can trace its origins back to the late 1800s when a man by the name of Müftüzade İsmail Efendi brought the Damask Rose species to Anatolia from Bulgaria shortly after Bulgaria broke off from the Ottoman Empire. It is from his field of roses that allowed Turkey to cultivate them and become one of the main producers of roses on the global stage. In fact, the offspring of the roses brought to Turkey in 1891 are still flourishing there today.
Rose water is still around in abundance today and can be used in food and drinks, as a cosmetic treatment and to help alleviate certain medical ailments. Visit our shop today to get your very own bottle of rose water!