GOLĀB (< gol-āb; Arabicized as jol[l]āb), rose water, a distillate (ʿaraq) obtained chiefly from the gol-e moḥammadi (see GOL), the best-known product made from rose petals in Persia. It is widely used in sherbets, sweetmeats, as a home medicament, and (in special golāb-pāšes “rose-water sprinklers”) on some religious occasions (e.g., in funeral services in mosques, an attendant offers it to each arriving participant to sprinkle on his hands and face before touching a copy of the Koran to be read silently during the service). Reputedly the best is the golāb of Qamṣar in Kāšān, where golābgirān, the ceremonial process of plucking roses and extracting golāb from them in Ordibehešt/April-May, has become a tourist attraction. In olden times, however, according to Abu Manṣur Ṯaʿālebi Nišāburi (Ṯemār, s.v. ward Jur, tr., p. 548), the rose water of Jur (Gōr, the old name of Firuzābād, q.v., in Fārs) was “proverbial as to its fragrance, and was exported to the farthest countries in the East and West. Every year as [part of] the ḵarāj of Fārs, 27 million bottles [sic] thereof, one thousand raṭls of gol-angobin (see below) were sent to the Caliphs’ court” (in his Laṭāʾef al-maʿāref [tr., p. 229], however, Ṯaʿālebi reports 30,000 bottles and 10,000 raṭls; cf. Eṣṭaḵri, pp. 152-53; Ebn Ḥawqal, p. 298; Moqaddasi, p. 443; Ḥodud al-ʿālam, ed. Sotuda, pp. 131-32; Ebn Faqih, pp. 204-5).

Attar (or otto; < Pers. ʿaṭr < Ar. ʿeṭr “perfume”), a very fragrant essential oil obtained from rose water, is also produced, but in a much smaller quantity and sold at a much higher price, because (as communicated by a private producer to the present writer) about four tons of rose petals are needed to obtain only one kg of attar, which sells at about US $5,000 on foreign markets! Strangely, neither golāb nor otto (commercialized as ʿatr-e gol-e moḥammadi in tiny vials) figure separately in official export statistics (cf. the latest published in Gomrok-e … Irān, for 1377 Š./1998-99).

Similarly, the ʿaraq-e nastaran (eglantine distillate), believed (like golāb) to be “of a hot nature,” is also commercialized. It is used in a sherbet as “cardiac tonic,” and “good for nephritis, diarrhea, stomach ache, and ‘coldness’ of nerves” (quoted from the promotional folder “ʿAraqiyāt-e sonnati” “Traditional distillates” published by Mojtamaʿ-e kešt o ṣanʿat-e Irān Targol, Tehran, n.d.).

The petals of particularly fragrant roses are used to make rose preserve (morabbā-ye gol), formerly called gol-qand (with sugar), and ḥalwā-ye gol-e zard, with the petals of some fragrant yellow variety (recipes in Āšpaz-bāši, p. 47, and in Hekmat, “ḥalwā-ye gol,” pp. 141-42), and ḡul-ə pālūdə, a Gilāni specialty made with the petals of a special fragrant white rose, rice flour, milk, butter, and sugar (recipe in Ḵāvar, pp. 206-7).



Iraj Afšār, ed., Kār-nāma o Māddat al-ḥayāt: matn-e do resāla dar āšpazi-e dawra-ye ṣafawi, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, index, s.v.

ʿAli-Akbar Āšpaz-bāši, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, index, s.v.

Ebn Boṭlān Baḡdādi, Taqwim al-ṣeḥḥa, Pers. tr., ed. Ḡolām-Ḥosayn Yusofi, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 152-53.

Gomrok-e … Irān, Āmār-e bāzargāni-e ḵāreji, 1377 Š., 2 vols., Tehran, 1378 Š./1999.

Forough-es-Saltaneh Hekmat, The Art of Persian Cooking, New York, 1961; repr. Tehran, 1970.

Z. Ḵāvar (Marʿaši), Honar-e āšpazi dar Gilān …, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.

Abu Manṣur Ṯaʿālebi Nišāburi, Ṯemār al-qolub fi’l-możāf wa’l-mansub, ed. Ebrāhim Ṣāleḥ, 2 vols., Damacus, 1994; tr. R. Anzābi-nežād, Mašhad, 1376 Š./1997.

Idem, Laṭāeʾf al-maʿāref; tr. ʿAli-Akbar Šehābi Ḵorāsāni, Mašhad, 1368 Š./1989.

'Schwarz, Iran, pp. 58, 166, 209, 835, 871, 883.

(Hušang Aʿlam)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 58-59