Here’s an inside look at the Linden Botanicals team’s visit to the Saffron Paradise outside Marrakesh, Morocco.
Our Visit to Ourika Valley
On Thursday, we escaped the bustle of Marrakesh, traveling 45km to the south for a countryside visit to several gardens and cooperatives of Ourika Valley. In Ourika, our first stop was at Paradis du Safran (Saffron Paradise). Paradise is a fitting name. The gardens were founded five years ago by Christine Ferrari, a Swiss national looking to escape the stress of Basel. The gardens are truly an oasis of peace.
Saffron, the Mood Lifter
The working side of the gardens includes 2 hectares of cultivated Crocus sativus, from which saffron is collected. Saffron is perhaps best known as a culinary spice, but it also has healing properties as an antiseptic, antidepressant, antioxidant, digestive, and anti-convulsant. (We at Linden Botanicals are looking at it for its mood-elevating properties.)
Due to very little rain, this year has been difficult for growing in the Ourika Valley (and throughout Morocco). The saffron harvest just completed is about one-tenth the normal size. Paradis du Saffron is usually able to employ 20-30 local women, but we saw only 3 women collecting saffron on the day we visited. The dry season, while great for tourists, has major repercussions for the women of the area who are trying to earn a living.
The Saffron Paradise Gardens
The relaxation side of the compound includes a wonderful, well-labeled, and extensive herb garden. Further up the path is a citrus garden with lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate, grapefruit, and tangerine trees, as well as a green lemon tree. In total, the gardens include more than 100 herbs and fruiting trees. Even in November the scents were still lovely.
The Ground Beneath Our Feet
A highlight of our visit was a barefoot path. We removed our shoes and socks and walked across a number of natural textures, including stones, gravel, logs, sawdust, pine cones, clay, and amaranth seeds. Not all of the textures were pleasurable (a few were quite painful), but the experience did connect us with the ground under our feet.
The barefoot path led to a covered stand where we soaked our feet in 10 different herbal waters, one after the other. After trying all the herbal foot baths, we tried out a salt rub with a nice coarse salt. We finished the foot-soothing extravaganza with an application of the Argan oil from the Argan trees native to Morocco.
A True Saffron Paradise
Our visit ended with a complimentary tea (a mixture of herbs grown in the garden) amid the trees and flowers. All in all, the Paradis du Safran was a melange of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. A truly exceptional sensory experience.
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