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Essaouira, 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 climb in trees, but only where the argan tree grows. Argan trees have precious nuts loved by the cosmetics industry worldwide, but someone likes those nuts even more, the Moroccan tree goat.

In cooperation with: Moroccan National Tourist Office

Moroccan goats climb into trees to reach their favorite nuts. In fact they are helpers of local farmers. They eat parts of the nut, leaving the rest to local Berber women that collect them from the ground to make the world’s most expensive oil.

Moroccan goats in trees

 Goats in trees eating nuts, Essaouira, Morocco 

I will tell you more about the Essaouira tree goats soon, first some words about the trees they climb on.

The Essaouira Argan Tree

Essaouira argan trees

Argan trees growing in Morocco, Africa

The argan tree is a prehistoric tree art that only grows in Morocco, and within Morocco it only grows in certain regions like Essaouira. While most plants don’t survive the hard desert climate, argan trees do. They are strong enough to survive the hot Sahara climate prevailing between Marrakech and Essaouira, but even for them it is a tough job.

Argan trees are severely threatened and today under a protection campaign. Because large areas of forest have been cut down by locals, and hungry Moroccan tree goats have taken their share as well.

Yet the trees would be extremely valuable for the Moroccan economy. They produce precious vitamin rich nuts that can be processed to valuable argan oil.

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 lately, argan oil has become 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 Moroccan 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 being some 6 m. Even the fruits of argan and olive trees look a bit the same.

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

Moroccan Goats in Trees

Essaouira goats in trees, why?

Goats in trees, but why?

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 might also be that the goats eat the whole fruit. and then poop out the seeds – and the women collect them.

Essaouira goats in trees

Moroccan goats having their lunch in argan trees

Moroccan goats in tree

A closer look at goats in trees

Moroccan tree climbing goat

This goat found his own paradise

Whatever way it is, Berber 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 those women’s cooperatives to see 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

This is how it goes: the first woman in the row cracks the seeds open to remove the nuts inside. You can see that the seeds almost look like almonds.

The next woman roasts the nuts and the last in the row grinds them with a stone mill.

So it’s all done by traditional methods. As the production process is very labor-intensive, it also takes a lot of time.

To produce one liter oil takes as much as 30 kg of nuts. 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.

That could be a bit boring, but at least they have a curious tourist group watching them and asking questions.

Moroccan women producing argan oil

Moroccan 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 are 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

Explaining argan oil production process

Both Food and Skin Oil

When the oil is cooked it becomes food oil, while uncooked oil is good as skin oil. To give the skin oil different fragrancies they add lemon or other scents to it.

Lemon oil was my favorite, as sprayed on the skin directly from the bottle. But the cosmetics industry doesn’t sell any argan oil sprays. No, they just include a few drops of oil in their best luxury creams. Especially 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 into 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 more expensive.

As food oil, argan oil has a nutty flavor, tasting a bit like toasted hazelnut. They say the oil helps reduce cholesterol and also prevents arteriosclerosis, rheumatism and other diseases.

Moroccan argan oil for cosmetics and food

Essaouira argan oil bottles

Then, of course there was an argan oil shop too. However, as the bottles were too big to take home in a cabin baggage I couldn’t buy. The only argan oil item I took home was my hotel room 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. People and animals working together, helping each other.

My trip to Morocco was made possible by Moroccan National Tourist Office, in whose press trip I participated. All opinions expressed in this blog post, however, are my own.

Another Story: Civet Cats Helping Produce Bali Coffee

The connection between argan oil and tree goats came to me as a surprise. So nice to learn new things! Yet, in the Far East, I’ve seen a similar food production process. In Bali, animals and people also work together:

To learn about the Bali civet cat, check out the post where the world’s most expensive coffee Luwak Coffee is produced by a traditional method, with Luwaks (civet cats) eating and pooping out Balinese coffee beans.

Roasting coffee in Bali

Roasting Luwak coffee in Bali

More on Morocco Travel

If you are planning a trip to Morocco, you might also be interested in these articles:

Koutobia Mosque, Marrakech

Koutobia Mosque, one of the sights of Marrakech

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One comment

  1. Gift Morocco argan oil

    Thanks you

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