Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Orange blossom water brings pride, flavour to Tunisia

A woman sifts through petals of orange blossoms before extracting the flower oil (hydrosol), in Tunisia's Nabeul region on March 24, 2023   -  
Copyright © africanews
FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Every March, sour orange trees are in full bloom in Nabeul, the Tunisian city known for this fruit which is also called 'bigarade orange'. Samia Marzoug is busy harvesting the flowers off the trees in her yard.

The flowers are sought for their strong and sublime fragrance. In Tunisia, they are widely used in the preparation of meals.

"I am in front of my house and I am picking orange blossoms. It [the orange tree] gives me 16 kilos [of orange blossoms] every year which allows me to obtain 16 litres [of orange blossom water]. It is for me and my children. We use it in the kitchen, we [use it in] cooking. It's a tradition and that's [the way] it is every year," said Samia Atig Marzoug, a retiree.

Using artisanal distillation techniques, two extracts are obtained. Flower water which is used for cooking and neroli, the essential oil used in the making of perfumes.

"March is the season of the orange blossom. It is the period of production. The orange blossom comes from everywhere. The flowers bloom along with the sunlight. We distill 24/24. The alembic [a still used for distillation of liquids] does not stop, day and night. At this time, with Ramadan, it is a great pleasure [to do it]. I don't want this dream to stop. It is a delight. The smell of orange blossoms gives us a great feeling of well-being," said Rania Mansour, a distiller.

The governorate of Nabeul located in the pennisnsula of Cap Bon is the leader in the production of sour orange flowers whicl locals lovingly call white gold.

"Nabeul is the [Tunisian] capital of all that is artisanal, ceramics and everything else.. And also, it is the capital of the sour orange. And it is profitable for many people. Many people live off it directly or indirectly, either by distilling the flowers or directly from the tree. And traditionally, there are several thousands, more than 3,000 families, who do it today to supply the whole country. Nabeul supplies the whole country with orange flower water," asserted Zouheir Bellamine, president of the association for safeguarding the city of Nabeul.

The flowers are said to have good antibacterial, antiviral and antiparasitic activity, as well as calming, relaxing, antidepressant, tonic, digestive properties.

View more