The first time I heard about goats in trees in Morocco I was sure I’d misheard.
Our guide Abdul had asked what we wanted to see while we were visiting his country for the next two weeks. I was thinking only of the twisting medieval Medina of Fez, peering from Tangier towards Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar and the swirling sands of the Sahara. But my fellow traveller had other ideas.
Goats? In trees? In Morocco?
Yes. It’s true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
And there’s a connection to one of the world’s most popular hair products.
Argan trees, which produce the nuts that are used in Moroccanoil, dot the highway from Marrakech to the coastal city of Essaouira.
It’s here you’ll find women’s co-operatives like Afous Argan that make beauty and culinary products from Moroccan or argan oil. In addition to running a shop, they also do demonstrations so you can see how the cold-pressed oil is made by hand. BTW, it looks a lot like runny peanut butter when it slides out of the rotary stone press,
Watching this process reminded me of how cold-pressed coconut oil is made in Samoa, although luckily there’s no need for drying in argan oil processing.
This is also the home of herds of nimble goats who scamper up argan trees to feast on their fruits and leaves.
On one tree, I spotted five good-sized goats looking a bit puzzled as they stood on tiny tree limbs that visibly swayed under their weight.
Beholding this sight in person gave me the giggles and also made me anxious. How on earth did these crazy goats get back down?
The goats chew on the ripened argan fruit, which weakens the hard protective shell around the nut inside, and spit them out making it easier for farmers to produce the valuable oil, according to New Scientist. The hard nut can also be cracked by hand using tools as it is in the co-operative.
Stopping to marvel at the tree goats is a total tourist trap (it was next to the highway after all) but I found it enchanting in spite of myself.
If you want photos, be prepared to pay the local goat herders a few Moroccan dirham. You can even hold one of the babies, if you’re lucky. My little goat was so soft and light, it was like holding a little stuffed animal. An unexpected memory of Morocco.
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