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Morocco: Did I See Goats in Trees?

Goats in trees by the Marrakech to Essaouira highway? We stopped the car, walked back and yes we saw black and white Moroccan goats, high up in tree branches.

Moroccan goats can climb in trees, but only near Essaouira where argan trees grow. Argan trees produce nuts that cosmetics industry loves. And the goats love the nuts even more. 

Moroccan goats climb into trees to reach their favorite nuts. In fact they are agricultural workers. They help local Berbers by eating parts of argan tree nuts and leaving the rest to the Berbers that produce argan oil.

Moroccan goats in trees

Essaouira, Morocco: goats in trees

I will show you the Essaouira tree goats after a while, first some words about the trees they climb on.

The Essaouira Argan Tree

Essaouira argan trees

Argan trees, Morocco

Argan tree is a prehistoric tree art that only grows in Morocco, and within Morocco it only grows around Essaouira. Most plants don’t survive the desert climate but argan trees are strong. They survive in the hot Sahara temperatures between Marrakech and Essaouira. But it is a hard job. Argan trees are threatened and today under a protection campaign. Areas of forest have been cut down by locals and hungry Moroccan tree goats take their share as well.

Yet the trees would be so valuable for the Moroccan economy, for the precious vitamin rich nuts that you can make oil out of.

Argan Oil

Argan oil is a health product that is used as food oil. In Morocco they add it to salads, tagines or use it as dipping oil.

In addition the Moroccans have always used argan oil for medical purposes – for treating almost any disease. And today Argan oil has become very popular in the cosmetics industry world-wide. They add it to skin lotions and anti-wrinkle creams.

Below you can see an argan tree (Argania spinosa):

Argan tree, Morocco

An argan tree on a courtyard

Argan trees are twisted and very much look like olive trees. But unlike olive trees they are thorny, very sticky. Both trees remain low, the maximum is some 6 m. Also the fruits of argan and olive trees look a bit the same.

But the Moroccan tree goats, they don’t like olive trees, just the argan tree. Here they are in an argan tree, feeding on leaves and nuts:

Moroccan Goats in Trees

Essaouira goats in trees

 

So Moroccan goats spend their days in argan trees, eating leaves and peals of the fruits they love. The goats get 70 % of their food from the trees.

But the goats only eat the peals and leave the seeds that exist inside. They spit the seeds out on the ground and Berber women come and collect them.

It’s also said that the goats eat the whole fruit. They poop out the seeds – and the women collect them.

Essaouira goats in trees

Moroccan goats having a lunch in an argan tree

Moroccan goats in tree

A closer look at goats on the treetop

Moroccan tree climbing goat

This goat found his own paradise

So the women pick the nuts from the ground and bring them home. They take the oil out of them which is not an easy task. For that purpose there are women’s cooperatives where these women work.

We took the road to one of Essaouira region women’s cooperatives and saw how it all works.

The road Marrakech to Essaouira, Morocco

Road from Marrakech to Essaouira

Khmissa Argan, Essaouira

An Essaouira argan oil cooperative

Producing Argan Oil

Yes, here they sit all in the row and keep working with the seeds.

Moroccan women grinding argan seeds

Moroccan women producing argan oil

The first women in the row crack the seeds open to remove the nuts inside. The seeds almost look like almonds. The next woman roasts the nuts and the last in the row grinds them with a stone mill.

This all is made by traditional methods. You can guess it takes time, it’s very labor-intensive. It takes 30 kg of nuts to produce 1 liter oil. That all needs a lot of working hours. This is the way they always did it and they will keep on working the same way.

Maybe a bit boring but at least if you have a tourist group watching…

Moroccan women producing argan oil

Berber women producing argan oil

Moroccan woman grinding argan seeds

Grinding argan nuts in a hand mill

An old Moroccan woman

Moroccan Berber woman

Not all workers in this women’s cooperative were female. We got an excellent presentation in good English from this gentleman who also let us try and taste different oils.

Presenting argan oil production

Presenting argan oil production 

When oil is cooked you will get food oil while uncooked oil becomes skin oil. You can add lemon or other scents to get different fragrances.

Lemon oil was my favorite, sprayed on the skin directly from the bottle. But cosmetics industry doesn’t sell argan oil sprays. No, they just include a few drops of oil in their best luxury creams. The high vitamin E content of argan oil has made it popular in luxury skincare products.

I also learned that argan oil is good for the nails and the hair. You can either buy argan oil shampoo or make your own shampoo by adding drops of argan oil to your own shampoo.

Moroccan argan oil

Moroccan argan oil

Argan oil is also becoming trendy as food oil. They say it’s like a new kind of improved olive oil –  and a more expensive one.

As food oil it has a nutty flavor, it tastes a bit like toasted hazelnut. And they say it helps reduce cholesterol and you can also use it against arteriosclerosis, rheumatism and many other diseases.

Moroccan argan oil for cosmetics and food

Essaouira argan oil bottles

Yes, of course there was a shop too. But the bottles were too big to take home in a cabin baggage so I couldn’t buy. Instead I took home my hotel room complimentary argan oil soap.

Moroccan argan oil

Argan oil cosmetics, Essaouira

 

So now we know the story of the Moroccan goats in trees, eating argan fruits and helping produce the world’s most expensive oil.

This all was new to me and now I know a lot more than before my trip to Morocco. Yet I’ve seen a similar food production process before in another country, that is animals and people working together:

 

A Similar Story: Producing Balinese Coffee

If it interests you check out my story on Bali, Indonesia where the world’s most expensive coffee Luwak Coffee is produced with traditional methods, with Luwaks (or civet cats) eating and pooping out coffee beans.

 

Roasting coffee in Bali

Roasting coffee in Bali

More on Morocco Travel

Koutobia Mosque, Marrakech

 

 

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