Syrian children pick Damask Roses (Rosa Damascena), in the village of Marah, north of the capital Damascus, on May 11, 2016. AFP / LOUAI BESHARA
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Its fame is such that the damask rose features in Shakespeare, but for Syrian farmers growing the flower that produces the heady-scented oil used to flavor Turkish delight, tragedy may await. One of the oldest flowers in history, a staple of perfumers and known for its therapeutic properties, the damask rose is withering in the city and surrounding fields that gave it its name.Farmer Jamal Abbas looks out over land in Mrah, some 60 kilometers northeast of the capital of a country ripped asunder by war for five years.Rebels were routed from the area in 2014, and Sunday the festival was staged again, despite the production of damask roses at an all-time low.Thanks to its heady, rich and smooth scent, the damask rose – it flowers naturally in May but can also be grown throughout the year – is used to produce essential oils and cosmetics.Back in Mrah, octogenarian Amin Bitar has spent his entire life cultivating the damask rose.
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