The Road to Essaouira

I could not just talk about the fortified town without mentioning the scenery on the way to Essaouira. I thought I already saw Morocco’s uniquely diverse landscape on the road to Erfoud, but I saw another enchanting landscape of surreal beauty on the road to Essaouira. 

Most astonishing sights in the bizarre were the tree-climbing goats or the Argan trees decorated by live goats. Even though they almost looked as if staged for tourists, there was a historical and scientific foundation for the story. No grass for grazing grew on the rocky plains, except for Argran trees, which are unique to that part of Morocco. Therefore, the goats climbed the trees for the Argan fruits for food.

Recent years have shown the growth in numbers of the Argan trees due to the popularity and commercial value of the Argan oil. Our guide mentioned that roughly over one million trees are grown in the area. Cooperatives were formed to protect the interest of the local people (Berbers).

We visited a cooperative and saw the production of Argan oil from the blooming fruit trees to the labor-intensive production line.  We heard stories about the goat's involvement in the oil extraction process: They would eat the fruit, and seeds were collected from the goat's droppings. Today, goats are no longer used in the oil production process, but local women are the ones primarily involved in the arduous and lengthy process of collecting the fruits from the trees, drying the fruits, cracking the nuts between two stones and grinding the seeds, kneading and pressing repeatedly to squeeze the oil out. 

I just hope that the small productions remain sustainable and manage to produce according to custom and tradition based on an intimate knowledge of the environment.

(The Scenery on the Road to Essaouira from Marrakesh)

All photos by the author



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