It’s May and the city of Antalya is in full bloom with roses in every shade. Roses have always had a special place in my heart. As I recall visiting my grandmother, we would go out into her yard to pick pink roses from her flowerbed. Today, just the smell of a rose makes me think of her.
Roses have always had special meaning as most often they symbolize joy, happiness, and love. The scent of a rose can trigger the memory of a loved one, a perfume, a become a sachet used to freshen your closet. With so many roses blooming throughout the city of Antalya, it made me curious to find out why roses are so popular throughout Antalya.
The Importance of Roses in Turkish Culture
As I began my research into the history of roses and their importance to the Turkish culture, it made me appreciate roses even more!
The History of Roses
Roses have been in existence for over 40 million years. Roses were first used for medicinal purposes to treat headaches, toothaches, and many other symptoms. Roses were also cooked in wines and used to enrich foods. Roses arrived in modern-day Turkey in the 1800s.
In 1200 BC, Sumerians and Assyrians mastered the art of extracting the fragrance of roses by extracting its oil to create fragrances that still exist today in many perfumes. Historically, roses are mentioned throughout Greek mythology in poems that describe the gardens or the scent the roses produced.
The Turkish word for Rose is Gul which also means smile. It’s believed that rose oil production began in Persia and soon spread to the Anatolia region during the 9th Century. When the Ottoman Empire took over, rose oil spread throughout the Ottoman provinces, mainly in today’s region of Bulgaria.
It was in the 1880s that modern (for that time) commercial hydro-steam production of rose oil began in the area, presently the Republic of Turkey. Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the new Republic of Turkey, the founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, began to push rapid modernization and commercialization. In the early 1930s, he created the modern Rose Otto production center in Isparta, Turkey.
The Rose Industry of Turkey
Isparta is often referred to as the Rose Fields of Turkey. Located in the Mediterranean region’s hinterlands, Isparta is one of those beautiful provinces with fields of roses and lavender as far as the eye can see.
Isparta is located at an elevation of almost 3,400 feet above sea level, about a two-hour drive north of Antalya, and is a perfect spot to produce fields of roses in Turkey. Approximately 1.5 tons of rose oil and 7 tons of rose concentrate are produced here annually. Exports amounted to $2.5 million USD, with Gülbirlik accounting for $1.5 million USD, and private enterprises accounting for $1 million USD.
How Roses are Used in Turkey
My husband is Lebanese, so I have experienced tasting rose water as a part of making traditional dishes from the Middle East. In Turkey, rose water is also used in cooking. You might have sampled Turkish Delight which is a gummy sweet candy that uses rose water to provide its delicious flavor. Turkish desserts such as baklava also include rose water in the syrup drizzled over the top. You can find rose water in many Turkish teas and jams as well.
In the Turkish culture, rose water is used to help with stomach aches and digestion difficulties, it also improves the skin and is said to be a mood enhancer because its aroma alone is cited as having antidepressant qualities. Rose water has served the Middle Eastern culture for decades and continues to be a part of their daily lives today.
The Best Time to Visit Turkey for Rose Blossoms
Roses typically are in full bloom between the month of April and May in Turkey. A wide variety of colors can be seen throughout Antalya. Some of the unique roses seen here are white roses with red tips or yellow roses with pink tips. Commercial and residential buildings are landscaped with rose bushes, along with fences or archways. Turkey’s national flag is mainly red with a white crest. Therefore, red roses are the most commonly planted throughout the country.
I believe the Tourism Bureau along with city governments have worked together in creating spaces for visitors to enjoy nature. Neighborhood parks are scattered throughout the city and are often landscaped with roses and other flowering plants. Many of the parks feature a beautiful water fountain to create a relaxing sound and environment. As you stroll through the city you may get a whiff of flowery scent which makes you stop in your tracks as you take in the intoxicating aroma.
Antalya has created beautiful green spaces for all its inhabitants to enjoy and appreciate. If you get the chance to be in Antalya in the Spring, pay special attention to the roses and sample a few of their desserts to get a taste of rose water.