Arriving at dawn in the small Moroccan town of Kelaat M'Gouna we are greeted by the intoxicating scent of rosa damascena, the pretty pink damask rose famous for it's highly prized rosewater and oil.

May is the month of the Rose Festival here in the Dades Valley, when the town bursts into life with celebrations to mark the end of the annual rose harvest. The population of this normally sleepy town doubles in size for the festival, with visitors coming from all over Morocco to explore the variety of rose products on offer and to be entertained by lively street parades and folk musicians.

We join the women in the fields where their morning starts early to ensure the roses are picked before the sun gets too hot and burns off the scent. The blooms are nimbly gathered into a cloth tied around the body and when full are emptied into sacks to be transported by donkey for sorting. The blowsy open roses go straight into a copper vat to distill into rosewater and oil, while the roses still in bud are laid out to dry and will be used in tea and to make pot pourri.

Everything about Kelaat M'Gouna is an expression of joy and gratitude for it's association with rosa damascena, from the rose pink petit taxis to the fabulously kitsch rose sculptures on the roundabouts of it's main street and the rows of little shops full to bursting with pink packages of rose fragranced lotions and potions.

Explore more in our Rose Pink Edit