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One spring day in the palace gardens of the Mogul Emperor, a wedding celebration was taking place. The bride, a Persian princess named Nur Jehan was fascinated by the stream of rose water that ran through the garden, in honor of the occasion. A shimmering golden film on the water caught her eye and she ordered her servants to collect the perfumed, buttery substance. This was how, in the 17th century, the costly attar of roses was discovered.

The attar, sometimes called otto, is the precious, essential oil extracted from especially fragrant roses. Its use in the manufacture of perfumes helps to account for the substance’s extravagant price. Although rose water was known to the Romans, in ancient times, no one before princess Nur Jehan had learned the secret of extracting the attar. Her discovery spread throughout Arabia, Turkey, India and eventually also to the Balkans. By the 18th century, the Valley of Roses in Bulgaria was producing most of the world’s finest attars. 

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