Rose Harvesting in Isparta

Given Cleopatra’s reliance on fragrance in her seduction bag of tricks, it’s perhaps not coincidental that her first meeting with Rome’s Marc Antony took place on the Mediterranean Turkish coast near Isparta Province, world premier producer of rose oil.  There, during a growing season of only six weeks, the roses are picked at crack of dawn, usually by women, and brought to marketplaces or directly to local village cooperatives that run distilleries.  Peak harvest time in Isparta transforms the region into a hive of activity.  The Isparta Rose Festival brings music and theater to town stages, and the markets are laden not only with rose oil-based perfumes, but also with rose water-based drinks and sweets. It’s no wonder that roses have found their way into Turkish social customs.  For example, where Western culture developed the tradition of throwing rice at weddings, in Turkey the newly married couple is showered with rose petals.