Workshops and Lectures

Herbal Distillation Workshops

Spend an afternoon learning the art and science of herbal distillation, using a traditional water-steam alembic. Take the time to contemplate each drop of herbal water, which carries with it the ‘soul’ of the plant.

Rose petals ready for distillation

Herbal distillation was a science inherited by the early Muslim botanists of Iraq and Persia, who were inspired by the texts and culture of previous great civilisations. With the migration of knowledge and science westward to Andalusia in the 9th and 10th centuries, herbal distillation became an art practiced and developed in the Islamic West, which continues to this day.

In a handmade copper distiller, we load up the petals and turn on the fire, awaiting the much lauded first drip of herbal water that percolates up through the instruments.

This is a slow, meditative process. Traditionally it was only accessible to women, who would sit together in fellowship, dancing to the rhythms of the flowers as they filled the pots up and bottled up the glasses.

We try to keep as close to tradition, sitting for the length of the afternoon around the working pots, discussing gently the world to which this practice belongs, the skills and character that it necessitates.

orange blossoms for the pot

Herbal distillation is steeped in history and ritual, and in this workshop you will be immersed in all of its aspects:

  • Learning and discussing the history of the tradition and how it developed
  • Learning the techniques used in distillation, and how to get it right every time – how you might practice at home
  • Experiencing the holistic aspects of the tradition, which demands complete focus, presence and reverence

This is a hands on workshop, and each participant will be given a task in order to ensure that the distillation runs smoothly. These are repeated throughout the distillation process, and whilst simple in a sense, require complete focus in order for the process to be successful.

It is most often during the spring that the women of Fes practice the art of distillation, with the use of orange blossoms and rose petals. However, throughout history master herbalists distilled a number of other plants and flowers for their healing and cosmetic purposes. Depending on the season, we will use fresh sage, geranium, lavender, orange blossoms or rose petals. All of these are sourced locally from reliable, sustainable sources.

With the art of distillation, you can go on to make a number of cosmetic products, including facial toners, deodorants, and hair products. You can also use many herbal waters in cooking and drinks. In the workshop I can recommend sources where you can purchase an alembic, but you can always start with a simple coffee pot to begin with!

Workshop details:

I hold workshops at my home in the medina, 5 minutes walk from Rcif. If participants are unable to find the location, I am able to meet participants (promptly) at the Rcif pharmacy (opposite Inwi) or at Bab Jdid, Ibn Mashish school. Both are accessible via taxi.

Cost for a small private workshop (1-5 people): 700dh. Each participants leaves with a small bottle of their own distilled herbal waters.

Cost for a large private workshop (6-10 people): 1000dh. There is slightly less opportunity for full participation in a larger workshop, and it takes on more of a discussion form. Each participant still leaves with some of their own herbal water.

I also offer monthly public workshops at the reduced rate of 200dh per person.

Larger workshops are negotiable.

Get in touch for more information and to make a booking: info@atlasapothecary.com

Lectures

I also offer lectures on Moroccan Herbalism. This has been the subject of my academic research (SOAS: 2017) as well as much informal work since. My first work into Moroccan herbalism was a history of herbal medicine practice in Fes, written in Arabic and published here, with an English extract: https://www.soas.ac.uk/nme/ arabicislam/isps/prize-winning-independent-study-projects-in-arabic-2015-16.html. My second piece of research was an extended anthropological study of current practice of traditional medicine in Fes.

An olive branch: used for various healing practices in the Moroccan tradition

In this lecture I look at the principles of Moroccan herbalism, bringing together key points in Morocco’s history including indigenous culture, the coming of Islam and multi-culturalism in North Africa. I then go on to explore the influence of Greek culture and exchanges between Europe and North Africa since the fall of Grenada. The picture we are given is of a diverse tradition with deep roots in Islamic thinking. It contains a wealth of extensive botanical science which whilst being revolutionary for its time, remains important and interesting today.

Lecture details:

Costing: 70dh per person for groups of 8 or more. 50dh per person for groups above 15 pax.

Get in touch for more information and to make a booking: info@atlasapothecary.com