Orange Blossom Water (Mazaher)and Rose Water (Mawared)

October 26, 2009  •  Category:

Orange blossom water:

It is our foremost flavoring along with rose water in Lebanon when it comes to pastries, puddings or cookies, syrups and jams. We even drink it plain with a bit of water and call it “white coffee”.

Most of the orange blossom water production in Lebanon comes from an area south of the capital called Maghdousheh. This area is famous for its bitter orange groves. To be able to wander in that area in spring when the trees are in bloom is quite a treat!

But what is orange blossom water? It is a water extracted from the distillation of the flowers of bitter orange trees. These trees are also called bigarade or sevilleoranges or boosfeyr in Lebanon. Apparently, the production of this orange essence started when the alembic was invented, back during the days of the Umayyad caliphates, thirteen centuries ago! It was used during the celebration of Muharram or the Islamic New Year, in various milk and rice-based desserts.

In folk medicine, orange blossom water was sprayed on the faces of people who felt ill. It is believed to aid digestion and to be soothing before sleep. My grandmother would give it to me in a little Turkish coffee cup if I complained of a tummy ache or that I could not sleep.  It was also used as a perfume.

If you are lucky enough to know someone who produces orange blossom water from their own orchard, by all means try to get in their good graces! It is far superior to the ones produced industrially.

Rose Water:

Just like the orange blossom water, rose water is a distillate of the petals of the Damascus Rose (Rosa Damascena), grown in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Its usage goes back to the early Islamic era. It is used mainly for desserts, sherbets and syrups. The best rose water in Lebanon is found in Qsarnaba, a small village in the central Bekaa.

Arab folk medicine also uses rose water in case of sunburn as it is believed that it will soothe and rejuvenate the skin. Rose water is also used for religious purposes, as it is sprinkled inside mosques.

The distillation of rose petals is an artisanal activity that takes place during the blooming season in May and June. The best method of distillation is with steam rather than water. Unfortunately, most commercial production nowadays uses artificial essences instead of the real thing.

Source: From Akkar to Amel, Lebanon Slow Food Trail, by Rami Zurayk

If you are interested in making rose water, here are the directions:

In Herbs for Natural Beauty,Rosemary Gladstar outlines a home-brewing method that’s simple and fun and takes about 45 minutes.

For ingredients, you’ll need two to three quarts of fresh rose petals, clean water (distilled, if possible), and ice cubes. For equipment, you’ll need a large pot with a convex lid, a quart-size heat-safe stainless steel or glass quart bowl, and a chimney brick.

First, place the brick in the center of the pot and the bowl on top of the brick. Then arrange the rose petals around the brick, adding enough flowers to reach the top of it. Pour in just enough water to cover the roses.

Place the lid upside down on the pot. Bring the water to a rolling boil; then lower the heat to a slow, steady simmer. As soon as the water begins to boil, empty two or three trays of ice cubes into the inverted lid. Ta-da—your home still! If it all goes right, condensed rose water will flow to the center of the lid and drip into the bowl.

It’s important not to simmer the pot too long or your rose water will become diluted. When you’ve collected about a pint, it’s time to stop—and taste the rose water.

Now, I don’t recommend using store-bought roses for your experiment! If you are growing roses in your garden, then yes, that would be the best, especially if they are Rosa Damascena.

For more information:


Rose water will keep for years in a sealed bottle away from light and heat. The flavor will peak after one year.


27 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. amal says:

    Humm tous ces parfums et saveurs me ramènent chez moi !! ça me donne envie de pâtisseries libanaises du coup!
    bonne journée

  2. Nadjibella says:

    Je découvre ton blog qui est une vraie mine pour qui s’intéresse à l’Orient.
    J’y reviendrai avec grand plaisir.
    A bientôt.

  3. Dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    Love your post. I am a huge fan of both orannge blossom and rose water. I’d like to add that rose water acts as a great toner that cleans and refreshes the skin. Dab a little bit on a cotton, gently wipe face before applying night cream if any.


  4. Julie says:

    Hehe thanks to your blog, I can travel AND practice my english… how nice ! I love your recipes, thanks!

  5. cmiranda says:

    I love rosewater.I try putting it on my dishes every chance I get.Very informative post.

  6. radha says:

    thank you! these two waters are really precious and especially to women both for food and beauty purposes~

  7. radha says:

    Could you post “chicken with rose jam” recipe? it would be awsome to know how to make it ~ cheers

  8. Isabelle says:

    La fleur d´oranger, les pétales de roses ! Délicieux parfums du Liban que je n´oublierai jamais. Et cette délicieuse boisson “white coffee”, un très bon souvenir, merci pour ce blog fantastique.

  9. Catherine wairimu says:


    Am located in Kenya and i would like to be making home made rose water and the like. I have lived in lebanon and enjoyed their dishes. pliz quote for me the right varieties of flower to use coz we have many in kenya.
    i would be glad to receive your advice. Thanks.

    • Joumana says:

      @Catherine: It is called Rosa Damascena or in Arabic joory. I know it is cultivated in many parts including Eastern Europe.

  10. Walter Sistrunk says:

    I love your photo of the rose water bottles. Could I get permission to use it on an interpretive sign in a public garden? Please let me know.

    Thank you,

  11. Jay says:

    Do I keep my Rose water In the fridge after opening the bottle? or will It keep at room temperature? I boughta bottle of Cortas Rose water for the first time yesterday Thanks for the lovely blog…I used my Rose water as a skin toner 🙂 I did taste It but it tasted so strong…I am guessing we must dilute It for drinking?

    Thanks Jay

    • Joumana says:

      @Jay: You do not need to keep your rose water in the fridge and it should keep fine for one year. If you want to drink it, you simply figure on one teaspoon per 6 ounces of water, and add sugar to taste.

  12. Jay says:

    Thank you Joumana 🙂

  13. salma says:

    so are these shown above REAL distilled rose water? cause I bought a CEDAR rose water, even though the ingredients say that it only contains distilled rose water, im sceptical because of the extremely CHEAP price.. less than 3 dollars!!!! in Syria I used to buy it for an equivalent of 5 dollars before the lera dropped down. .. and Syria is much cheaper than America. so…. I don’t get it.. all other distilled rose hydrosols I see online are priced at at least 10 dollars

    • Joumana says:

      @Salma: You are right to be skeptical. I was not promoting this brand, that was only to show; I personally only buy distilled rose and orange blossom here from people I know made it themselves and the bottle always has a layer of oil at the top and a very strong perfume.

  14. Laurel says:

    Hi I’m Caucasian and know nothing about Lebanese cooking. There are 2 things that I have had at Lebanese restaurants 2 products that I would like to make for myself. 1. Really good Lebanese lentil soup recipe without meat. 2. A fabulous drink with rose water and orange blossom water and pine nuts on top. The first soup is delicious. The second is much preferable to carbonated beverages or flavoring my water with fruit juice because I can’t stand the taste of spring water alone. I’d like to flavor regular spring water with the more subtle rose or orange blossom with some lemon to alkalinize the body -can you suggest a recipe and where to get the ingredients?

  15. Marilyn says:

    I bought a small bottle of Lebanese Cortez Orange Blossom Water today. I drank just a mouthful and found it BITTER and NOT enjoyable. WHAT can I DO to make this TASTE BETTER ?

    • Joumana Accad says:

      @Marilyn Hello, the way to use it for a drink (as is traditionally done in Lebanon) is to add a mere teaspoon to a small demi tasse cup of hot water and sweeten it with sugar or honey. This is not the “real” orange blossom” water, it has an artificial flavoring; the real orange blossom water, albeit bitter as well, is made with the actual blossoms of the Seville oranges, they are distilled and give out an oily water which is extracted and kept in a bottle. The real ones are made in an artisan fashion and sold online or in shops throughout Lebanon. Here is a link to the drink made with orange blossom called “white coffee”

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