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Mawared (ma’wared) or rose water, is a distillate produced exclusively from the petals of the Damascus rose (Rosa Damascena), which is grown in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Although alcohol and oil based scents have been extracted from roses dating at least as far back as the times of the Pharoahs, it was not until Jabir ibn Hayyan invented the alembic in the early Islamic era, that extraction through distillation – a signature property of mawared – became possible.
Today, mawared is used primarily as a flavouring for sherbets and Arabic desserts such as baklawa and ma’amoul. It has a role in folk remedies, too. Traditional Arab medicine prescribes bathing or covering the skin in mawared in cases of sunburn or other burns. Mawared is also used for religious purposes. It is sprinkled inside mosques, and mawared mixed with zamzam holy water is used to clean the Kaaba in the Muslim holy city of Mecca (al Ghazi, 2001).
Roses were first cultivated in Lebanon as hedges or barriers around agricultural lands to prevent livestock from entering and destroying crops. It was only 300 years ago that mawared was first distilled for personal consumption (Moody, 1992). Since then, production has increased and continues to play a growing role in trade with other regions of the world. Under the Ottoman Empire mawared eventually spread to the far corners of Asia, Europe and Africa.
In Lebanon, the production of mawared is still limited, and is mainly undertaken by people who consider it an off-season, secondary activity. The Damascus rose blooms in May and June, and production of mawared peaks during these two months. A few producers are dedicated to mawared but that is not the general trend in the country because the price of mawared is considerably less than that of mazaher (Feghali, 2002).
Currently the fragrance industry maintains a high demand for the first thick oil distillate of mawared. Steam distillation produces a more delicate and fragrant oil than water distillation. In recent years, commercial producers have started marketing other floral distillates as ‘mawared’, and unfortunately, the use of artificial essences has also become widespread.

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