When most people hear about Ouarzazate they immediately picture sand as far as you can see, along with sand-coloured buildings and sandstone walls. But not far away – about fifty miles to the west – is El-Kelaâ M’Gouna.
It’s a small town in the foothills of the High Atlas surrounded by acres of greenery, a bit like a reverse oasis. Most of these plants are rose bushes, and it’s the pink Persians that makes this area the rose capital of the world and form the majority of the town’s economy.
We try and visit fairly regularly: after several weeks feeling the sand under your toes and in the air, it’s lovely to walk among bushes and trees again. And one event we always attend is the Rose Festival. It’s a three day celebration of the end of the rose harvest, with dancing, feasting, sword-fighting, Amazigh singing and contests.
Imagine an extended village fair, where everything is linked to a rose and you’ll get a vague idea of what it’s like. There’s even a kind of beauty pageant, with the winner being crowned Miss Rose.
The Rose Festival is three heady days of culture and fun that we wouldn’t miss for the world.