Rosewater production in Taif, Saudi Arabia's City of Roses, is closely connected to the alembic, a distillation apparatus that was brought to the region by camel caravans centuries ago.
The alembic played a pivotal role in transforming the rosewater industry in Taif, allowing for the efficient extraction of essential oils from rose petals. This, in turn, helped establish Taif as a leading producer of rosewater, a prized commodity that was used for centuries in perfumery, cosmetics, and the washing of the holy Kaaba.
The increase in production helped boost the local economy and establish Taif as a leading center for rosewater production.
Today, Taif is renowned for its high-quality rosewater, which is exported all over the world.
In an interview conducted by a Saudi Press Agency reporter, Dr. Ahmed Al-Ghamdi, a faculty member in the Chemistry Department at King Saud University, shed light on the significance of the alembic and the distillation process in the field of chemistry.
He emphasized that civilizations worldwide sought to establish a connection between their heritage and the historically important alembic.
"In our Arabic culture, it is claimed that the Arab alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan invented the alembic," Al-Ghamdi said, pointing out the phonetic similarities between the Arabic word and its English counterpart, "alembic," which suggests an Arabic origin.
Al-Ghamdi referred to Chinese literature, which indicates that initial complex chemical operations like extracting mercury from cinnabar powder through distillation were conducted using a Chinese copper apparatus rather than an Arab ceramic alembic.
The Chinese already had knowledge about distillation since at least the second century BC, predating Hayyan's alembic by eight centuries.