Rose water was used extensively in the Middle Ages in the upper class kitchen. Nowadays, it is still an important ingredient in the India and Surinam kitchen.
It adds a tender aroma to dishes. The Arabic name for rose water is maa“ al-ward. It is used a lot in their kitchen, especially in cookies, and for sure during Eid al-Fitr (the sugar feast at the end of Ramadan). Maa“ al-ward is sold a lot in Holland at drug stores, at open air food market stalls and in Surinam shops.
To make rose water, one often uses the pale Persian rose. Because of its tighter growing leafs, it is called rosa centifolia (the one with hundred leaves).
Rose water is the result of distilling rose leaves in water. One puts the leaves in a piece of linnen which then is tightened over the opening of a bowl. Above this, a heat source is placed; in the old days one would use glowing charcoal of grape branches in a pot which would be placed just above the cloth or in such a way, that the opening of the cloth would be sealed off by the pot and the cloth. On this followed slow destillation of a liquid which drip by drip would end up in the bowl.