08 Avr MOROCCO’S SWEET SCENT: ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER
At this time of year, the scent of Fez is the scent of Orange Blossom. Spring is by far the best time to visit Morocco, and that’s March, April and May. The snow has gone except for the highest peaks, the valleys are full of spring flowers and it’s not yet too hot. March sees the first of the orange blossoms appearing on the trees and being sold in the souks. Moroccan women distil the fragrant, waxy white flowers to produce orange flower water. This is used in patisserie, dashed into mint tea and sprinkled over your head and hands in religious ceremonies.
Moroccan Mythology states that the orange tree symbolizes paradise and love, its white flowers are purity, and its fruit is fertility. The craze for this flower is reported to have spread throughout the Islamic empire, and it reached Spain in the ninth century.
Bitter orange, also known as bigarade orange, is the only tree to have leaves, fruit and flowers at the same time. In Morocco, the flowers are hand-picked when they first blossom at the end of March.
All parts of this lovely plant have medicinal properties but numerous cultures use the water extracted from its flowers, called neroli floral water. It is collected when the essential oil is gently extracted by steam distillation.
Gathered in baskets, it is taken to the vendors in the Medina, and for the next couple of weeks the air will be rich with the pungent bouquet, as housewives swoop down to buy the basic ingredient of a scent and flavouring that permeates Moroccan culture. Taste a Moroccan pastry, and there is a fair chance that a dribble of orange blossom water has been added to the mix; visit a Hammam , and the rich soaps and unguents might release a light perfume of orange; go to a celebration, particularly a wedding, and you will have your hands sprinkled with the water as a sign of welcome and good luck.
Experience Coordinator at Palais Amani