Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Simple Life

Got friends on the transit to Sefrou yesterday in time to meet up w/Fatima, Zahra, Latifa, et al. Suad had invited me to “come to her house on Tuesday with Fatima”. Waxa. Call Fatima to find out what time. 9:30 in the morning. Iyeah? Weird time-not tea, lunch, whatever. So it was interesting to note it was a bunch of us, and they’re dressed up. Hmmmm. So we get in a transit and head down to the zlul (valley below REK), not the direction of Suad’s house. OK, I’m along for the ride. Pull up w/many other vehicles, obviously a ceremony of sorts. Seems that the new governor from Sefrou is making his rounds of ribbon cuttings in the REK area, and the new school in the zlul is first on the list. He takes his photo op, walk around and then it’s back in the vehicles. Now we’re headed to Suad’s. Check it out-berber tent, local girls dressed in traditional berber dress and singing and dancing. We’re not at Suad’s house, but she is the spokesperson for the storyboards from several local associations reporting on their work using INDH grants. She takes the governor thru them all-great exposure for her. Then the men sit under the tent for tea, cookies and chicken lunch. I get dragged into dancing the hadeus w/all the others in the hot sun, and gave them something to laugh at. Back in the transports and back in town by 11:30. Still have time to get to my tutor’s, which is a good thing since I had him translating an important document into Arabic that I needed for meetings today. All worked out.

All except the du and l-ma. Still have du (electricity), but no water pressure up on the 3rd floor where I am, so if there’s a trickle of l-ma, I’m refilling the water bottles that I’m constantly consuming. Not enough water or pressure for laundry or a shower. Two nights in a row I’ve dumped a 2 liter bottle of water on my body for a “shower” before bed.

Then my computer is failing me. Friend got into my ITunes on Monday and somehow deleted the operating software for 40 downloaded TV shows (my guilty evening entertainment pleasure). Fatal error, not recoverable. Sh**! Then decide my DVD drive really is not going to work (took a spill on wet tile the other day-landed on my bum, but must have hit DVD side of computer as well). It’s not like I’m a big DVD movie watcher, but I use it every other day for my riada (exercise), ie; Pilates DVDs. I’ve enjoyed the excuse of the heat and having company long enough. Need to fix this.

So I get up today after a sweltering night of no sleep to find that the gods are smiling on me, blessing me with simple pleasures that I really appreciate. First, taxi to Fes needs one more person to leave when I walk up. Yalla. Direct to Fes. Have time to write out my agenda and what I want to discuss w/the Artisanat Ministry Delegate. (I still do this in advance when meeting w/officials so if any words or concepts might trip me up, I’ve thought through them beforehand). Show up at the Artisanat at 9:30. The mundub shows up about 2 minutes later. Hamdullah. Get my business taken care of, got the official “stamp” for the Workshop/Craft Fair (we’re calling it Marche Maroc 2009) and their logo to use in our marketing. Head off to Marjane to do a bit of shopping for those things I can’t get here in town. This includes a portable DVD player-splurge at equiv. of $200, but it’s daruri (necessary).

Finish in time to meet up w/Jess and Cortney who are working on the marketing of Marche Maroc 2009, and we go for sushi. Yum.

They are on the hunt for photo images to use in the logo/look for the marketing materials, so we head on down below the medina to the pottery area-never been there before. Really amazing to watch them make the zillij mosaic work. Great photos, great work, and we’re done with that. Back to the American Language Center to measure space to diagram exhibits and check out kitchen, etc.

Then I find the transport gods still looking favorably upon me as a taxi to Sefrou is ready to go and the transit from Sefrou to REK fills quickly. Home at 7:30.

Fingers crossed. Du is on. Hamdullah. But wait, there’s more. I have water pressure!!!!!! I quickly fill empty bottles, fill wash tubs, strip and get all the laundry soaking and get under a cold shower-shampoo, shave, the works. Ham du li lah. Shower never felt so good or was so appreciated. The simple life, Morocco style.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Festival Time!

It’s Festival time in Ribat El Kheir! The Tamazight tents are up and Adwal’s product exhibit is completed. Friends came in all weekend to share in the festivities. Never seen so many people in Ribat El Kheir as there were last night for the entertainment, folklore and hadeus (traditional Berber dancing and singing). Great to see all the support for the Festival-feeling proud of my town-civic pride!

Meanwhile, I’m also on a bit of a high as I see signs of skill transfer in Adwal’s activities. Zahara and Fatima have approached 2 of the newer, young members to start taking on some responsibility for the business of the Coop. Nora has been asked to go to the workshops w/Fatima in October in Fes. Nora and Ferida have been given the responsibility for the exhibit booth through the entire Festival and they’ve been working it hard. They did a terrific job setting up the booth/product display. Mbruk! Zahra told me when I asked her about this recent development, she said, “Fatima and I can’t continue to do it all, right?” Right! This is a new concept for them that I’ve been talking to them about to build Coop sustainability and I’m so excited for them. Then, I see that Fatima has printed up the business cards and brochures I’ve made so they’re available at the Festival exhibit. Yipee!! If my work is to be sustainable, they have to be sufficiently motivated to take action themselves. And they have. Feelin’ pretty good about that. Delighted to see the crowd around their booth all weekend, making purchases-even if it’s for the lower priced fabrics.

Interestingly enough, there were only 4 other exhibit tents at the Festival. I was hoping that I’d find out about other artisans in REK through their exhibits, maybe additional Coops or Assns that I could also work with. But it was Adwal, the embroidery Neddi, a honey Coop and 2 other artisan Assns from out of town exhibiting. That was it for the entire festival-pretty surprising, given the crowd. Maybe next year I can encourage them to open it up to other artisans and have a small fee to exhibit, giving REK another revenue source and another reason for people to hang around the Festival. Inshallah.

Meanwhile I’ve thoroughly enjoyed staying in town for an entire week. Feeling so rested, despite the heat. Have enjoyed having others visit, taking chairs up to the roof-top deck each evening, discreetly drinking our wine (that they bring here-can’t be bought in my town), watching shooting stars, catching the cooling breeze and talking to all hours of the night. More friends coming in town tomorrow for a couple days. Life is good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Heat is On

So I didn’t make it to Ifrane on Monday. Made it to Sefrou. Sitting at the café with Jess and Jonathan, still feeling swiya, but feeling obliged to make the trip. Then I throw up. Uh oh. Gotta reschedule. Jess takes good care of me-we get a petit taxi to her house in Sefrou and I get rid of everything else in my system. Sleep for a few hours while she gets on with her business, letting me stay as long as I need/want. Thanks Lace! Finally feeling better enough to try to get home. End up standing about ½ the way in the transit and almost pass out. Someone sees how bad off I am and offers their seat-hamdullah. Had to sit more when I disembark before making the small hill up to my apt. What a wimp. But learning to listen to the body. Let it clear out, settle down, no workouts (that’s guilt talking), give the old bod a break.

It’s of little comfort to find out that lots of folks in town are feeling swiya also. Happens every year when we get extreme heat. There’s something about having a constant layer of sweat and getting accustomed to it that doesn’t seem right. Then there’s my constant water consumption w/no need for a bathroom. Just sweat. Waiting to take a shower until maybe I won’t sweat anymore and can crawl into bed feeling clean for the first time all day.

And of course a logical thought would be, heck Lynn, just take more showers to keep clean and cool. Easy for you to say. When the heat is on, the “du u l-ma” are out. That’s electricity and water. Goes off during the day. Saw a bunch of men going up the street together this afternoon during my tutoring session at the café (sipping Coke since again, no du or l-ma). Snu kaydiru? Going to raise *** at the electricity office. Seems awfully convenient that du and l-ma come right back on every day in time for kaskrut (that’s tea time, around 6pm). Doesn’t help the businesses who need the utilities during business hours.

I’m happy to say that this is a pretty mundane posting. I’m actually not travelling for 2 weeks-will be in my site until weekend after next, and can’t tell you how excited I am about it. I’m really tired of travelling-you can tell by the descriptions of what it takes to get everywhere, then add the heat and packed bodies, and it really wears on you. It’s good to just be here. Speaking more Arabic. Spending more time w/folks here. Sleeping in my own bed. Hamdullah.

The timing is perfect also, as the annual Ribat El Kheir Festival is this weekend. Some friends are coming into town for it-merhaba-as long as I don’t have to go anywhere, anyone can come. You're invited!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sultry Summer

It’s hot and a little sticky. Everyone’s outside-sitting on the curb in front of their house, up on the roof. This week promises more-expecting 111 degrees for next Saturday’s Ribat El Kheir Festival. Remember, no A/C. Grin and bear it. And it’s much worse in the south, so we have it good. Yikes.

On top of the heat, this is “wedding season”. Every day you hear trucks go by w/musicians in the back, followed by honking cars driving around the village. Weddings in Morocco are a different animal. A 3 day affair. Nonstop. If you’re officially invited, you come to dinner-maybe it appears at 2 in the morning. Guaranteed to be lots of dancing and music. From there it varies dramatically from region to region and size of village. Example: this weekend several of us gathered in Khoukhate-a small mud brick village about 8 hrs travel from here. There was a wedding in the next duar over last night. Everyone comes after the big dinner (usually on the 2nd night) to dance and party. Four of the six of us walked over around 1am (not incl. yours truly), after cleaning up and donning jellabas and scarves. They came back at 5am, just in time for us to catch the only transit out of town at 5:30am. Apparently they did have dinner-hadn’t been served by the time they arrived, and while there was dancing, it was segregated, and mostly (drunk) boys dancing. In another PCV’s duar, again everyone in town is invited/obligated to come to the party. At that particular duar, up in the mountains, everyone knows when the marriage is consummated, when the bride and groom have disappeared for a little while and the mother of the groom comes out to parade the bloody sheet, proving the bride was a virgin. In my town, it is not a town event, you mostly are just aware of the honking and occasional trucks w/music. I’ve heard 4 such groups of drivers just today. Officially the couple is married when they file an official document, often done months before the actual celebration. It is interesting to hear the stories about the couples-who met and fell in love, who has been matched with a significantly older groom, lots of first cousins, and occasional descriptions of marrying a girl below their status-guaranteeing a hard worker who won’t leave them. This of course comes from the perspective of the countryside. Modern, European-like weddings take place all over Morocco this time of year as well in the cities. But it’s much more colorful in the country. It does make for long celebrations, after the first one, which is very fun, it’s also not uncommon to find PCVs finding ways to be out of site during weddings so they can get some sleep, unless of course it’s a member of their host family, in which case attendance is culturally mandatory.

So yes, we went to Khoukhate this weekend. Five of us who trained in Ain Leuh together, plus a few adoptees, get together in different cities occasionally to catch up. This time we decided to visit Cynthia’s town and learn how to make couscous. No, not how to cook it. How to make it. From scratch-starting w/flour and water. Not hard-it is a form of pasta after all.

So it takes a transit to Sefrou, taxi to Immouzer, taxi to Azrou, bus to Zaida and transit to Khoukhate to get there. Oh, and at least 8 hours. Khoukhate is a small duar for Small Business Development standards. Electricity, no running water, but Cynthia has a well just outside her door. All mud brick construction. Keeps things much cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Her only produce or meat is in Zaida, and that’s about 1 hr transit, at 5:30-6:00 am every day. No refrig. Gotta be resourceful to eat a balanced diet. Of course it’s also common in small duars like that to eat a lot of your meals w/others-everyone’s door is open. This is also why Cynthia felt an obligation to go to the wedding last night, and fortunately 3 of the others were willing to go along.

I stayed behind since I acquired stomach problems along the way. Still feeling pretty punk. Usually my system bounces back quickly. Two weekends ago, when it was unbearably hot and we were in the bled my system went haywire. Goes to show that no matter how careful you are about what you consume, ie; bringing your own water, the heat can keep things going/growing that aren’t always good for you. Even took a nap today after I got home, and I never do that. Gotta rally overnight, as I need to retrace my steps tomorrow morning and get to Ifrane for meetings beginning at 11am. Can’t bugger out-I called the meeting w/2 profs at Al Akhawayn University to work out details for the fall workshops in Fes. Meanwhile, trying to stay hydrated so I’m feeling the best possible. Tomorrow promises to be another scorcher and 40% chance of rain-are you kidding? Wait-is that a bit of a breeze I feel? Hamdullah. Maybe I’ll get some good sleep.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


How can I do it justice? What a weekend. What a HUGE thanks I owe to Samira for sharing her hometown, family and friends with me. It’s not like she didn’t have anything else to do the 4 days I was with her-there were handymen, cleaning people, construction people there any time we were in the house, as she and her husband Bayan continue to complete their beautiful condo overlooking the bay in Tangier. So here are the highlights and snapshots…..

Spending the day on the beach and swimming in the remarkably clear Mediterraean Sea just east of Tangier
Poolside lunch feast at Souad’s house with Samira’s lifelong friends
Karim driving us everywhere all weekend long
Dinner and drinks at the historic El Minzah Hotel paid for by Samira’s family’s friend
Fish at every meal possible-can’t get enough
Getting to celebrate Samira’s birthday and graduation
Manicure/pedicure in the house

Tourists from Spain getting their picture taken on a camel on the beach
Sitting on the couch enjoying the Mediterranean breeze coming in the window
Breakfast every day at Comedy Cafe
Watching Samira’s graduation CD in the cabana poolside at Souad’s-congratulations again!
Nighttime view over the bay
Conversations that are a mix of Arabic, French, English and Spanish
Souad’s professional kitchen-a dream! Heck, her entire house-like a palace!
Moroccan schedule: Bed at 2am, breakfast at 11, lunch at 4 or 5, dinner at 11 or 12
Cyber café that’s actually a café-get internet and a ns ns

So much more about Samira’s family-her father, her absolutely amazing mother, where she grew up, etc.
Head scarves are a relatively recent phenomena-the jelaba/face scarf is the traditional veiling of Moroccan women
Traffic can be worse that LA-dare you to drive in Tangier!
Politics and corruption in Morocco-can turn her people away
California neighborhood where Samira grew up is in the hills overlooking the bay, with eucalyptus trees everywhere
One accommodates quickly to western toilets, tp, shower w/real water pressure

Next time….
Spain, only 35 minute ferry ride
Business trip to the countryside to check out potential import products

It was a study in contrasts, I must say. Samira’s Morocco and mine are quite different. If you only saw the Morocco I saw all weekend, you’d wonder why the Peace Corps is in this country. There is vast wealth and vast poverty, and little between the two. Tangier is wealthy, at least the Tangier that I saw. Private drivers. House full of help. Young children only speaking French. Lovely restaurants. But don’t get me wrong. Every person I met was truly wonderful. No one taking it all for granted. Down to earth. Delightful. A ton of fun. Moroccans are remarkably generous, hospitable and inclusive, regardless of their station in life. But it was quite a different side of Morocco to see.

It was an absolutely wonderful vacation. I am so grateful that Samira shared it all with me. I really love Tangier, and will definitely go back before I leave Morocco.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Morocco Makes Me Smile

At our Inter-Service Training in Marrakech, one of my training mates Joy came up with a great idea to keep us all focused on the positive. She posted a sheet of paper for us to collect those things that make us smile in Morocco. Following is a list of what was gathered, along with some additional ones of my own......

Arriving at the taxi stand to find 5 people waiting on one more to leave, old men walking hand in hand down the street, Moroccan greetings, sitting at the corner café, 4DH Harira, ymkn, lunch w/the Coop women, roosters, bubbly water from Oulmes, hiking to the source, gnaoua, free nails from the druggeri, transit drivers who hold the van when they see you coming, women doing “sport” in headscarves, spring wildflowers, Ham-du-li-lah, kids who understand our Arabic, merhababikum, finding a western toilet and tp in a bathroom, 25DH to sleep on the roof of the Cascade in the Fes medina, the gorge between Sefrou and El Menzel, 4DH ns ns, miluwi, Skype, fresh ripe veggie selection at souk, donkeys, clementine oranges, watermen, being invited in for tea, women in pjs and slippers with headscarf and apron walking hand in hand down the road, pomegranates, getting locals' prices, Moroccan women when they dance, finding mozzarella cheese, storks nesting on mosque minarets, view of the zlul, Moroccan generosity, the smells of souk, peanuts, Inshallah, sugar, turtle blankets, zllij, poppies, fresh unrefined olive oil, puppies, riada mornings, free food, internet in my house, unexpected friendly conversations, soccer with the boys, the snowtopped Atlas Mountains, care packages from home, young guy in sleeveless jellaba and pink slippers at the café, fresh ripe fruit, rooftop parties, rotisserie chicken and French fries, figuring out old time/new time, intricate geometric designs, did I mention Skype, sheep, a warm shower, Fatima working her magic to fix the looms, gtng Arabic txt msgs fm mccn bffs usng engl txt, and last but not least, Joy makes me smile.

I told one of my training mates I’d post the website he created for the artisan he’s working with. As I write this she’s exhibiting at the International Folk Art Festival in Santa Fe New Mexico. You might also recognize her as the dynamo who helped us in Beni Mcoud as the new Cooperative took shape. Check it out at

Just off Skype w/Joanne-so glad we had a chance to talk. You amaze me with your strength and character.

And as I am posting this, I’ve just finished packing my bags for a quick vacation-4 days in Tangier visiting my friend Samira and her husband. She grew up here and I know her from LA. She and her husband have a new condo in Tangier and are visiting family there. I’m very excited to see her and see Tangier thru a native’s eyes. Up early to catch transit to Fes to catch the 4 ½ hr train to Tangier.

The sun has just set-just heard the call to prayer-twilight on the horizon, nice breeze coming in thru the open windows-where I can look out to kids jumping off bricks downstairs next to a lot where a flock of sheep are grazing. My Morocco. Merhaba.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rag Rug-a-Muffins

I really was a ragamuffin this weekend. Bailed on my friend Jess. Feel bad about it, but just had to go home. Here’s how it went…

Thursday travelled down to Ifrane (about 3 hr trek) to meet w/women from Marketing Dept and International Development Dept at private Al Akhawayn University. They’ve done projects with Peace Corps Volunteers over the years and several of us came in to talk about ideas for summer and fall.

Ifrane-a touch of France/Switzerland in the midst of Morocco. Looks nothing like the rest of Morocco. Up in the mountains-high enough that there’s skiing in the winter. The King has a palace there. The whole town is pristine, landscaped, many parks, and the architecture is like Swiss/French mountain chateaus. Weird. Al Akhawayn is a well respected private University for those with flus (money). Students pay more for their lunch than PCVs pay for a week of food. You should have seen us at the lunch buffet they treated us to after our meeting. One of everything. Then we get ice cream. And it’s air conditioned. Toto, we’re not in Morocco anymore. Anyway, a productive meeting, and Inshallah, the business workshops they want to do for artisans are the same ones I want to do in conjunction w/the Craft Fair in Fes. Spoke to them about doing them together in Fes-they just sponsor the workshops we were gonna do anyway. So far they’re interested. Hopefully we can put this together.

Then it was off to Sefrou for the night, as 5 of us were meeting there in the morning to trek to a spot above Sefrou to spend the weekend making rag rugs. Friend Jess set this all up w/help of friends of hers in Sefrou. I understood it to be a trial weekend in a “jit” (weekend place for hikers/ecotourists), to see how the people could handle a crowd, they’d cook for us, place for swimming-envisioned a fun weekend of drinking, laughing, making rag rugs, playing rummicube and cribbage, etc. Well, I had it all wrong. It was a homestay situation. Incredibly wonderful people. Warm, generous, hard working, but a homestay situation. And no running water (and their water was from stream where horses also stay, so we couldn’t use it), no electricity, no toilet, no space of our own, no swimming and not appropriate to wear the shorts we brought to stay cool and why did we buy liquor when there’s no way we could drink in front of them? I can do the no electricity and running water. The no toilet got me. It’s not like there was even a tree to hide behind. Then there was the living w/the family. Again, they were wonderful people-nothing against them. However, I’ve lived w/families for 5 of my 10 months in mandatory home stays. I don’t want to spend what I would spend for the equiv. of a weekend in Fes to stay in another homestay (the cost was very reasonable from a tourist perspective, but expensive from that of PCVs-also needed to remember that PCVs are not the target customer for this idea). Then there was the heat. That combined w/hot flashes and I was a miserable puppy. Went home yesterday. One full day early. Really feel bad about bailing on Jess, but was not alone, as I was accompanying the others who decided to leave early.Yassine stayed behind w/Jess to sort out questions they had, as they want to use these families for cultural tourism homestays and bring groups up in the future. I think they need to sort out a lot of details, not the least of which are drinkable water and toilet.

So we asked about transit out, as we had seen some go by on the road up the hill the day before. Guy tells us in the morning that he’ll take us to Sefrou for 150DH. Even the girls we were staying with said “hshuma” to him. (note: Hshuma is the name of the devil’s wife) Figured we’d just pack our bags and keep an eye out for a transit during the day and be ready to make a run for it. Turns out about noontime that same guy was going into Sefrou on a regular run, so we got a ride for 6DH each. Go figure. Long bumpy ride on the dirt road in the back of transit w/no air. Was miserable on the transit home from Sefrou to REK and had zero energy when I arrived. Got here, took a cold shower and slept for 3 hrs (I never take naps), and my system is upset. I think maybe I was catching a bug. I feel a lot better today.

However, it was not an entire loss-great experience in other ways….Got a ton of rags sorted and trimmed to start our rugs. Two of us modified our ambitious plans to make full scale rugs and are going for wall décor. Brought our stuff home w/us to still get it done. A couple of them walked down to the fields below where we were staying. Saw all the neighbors helping in the fields to harvest the wheat. They all help one another w/the harvest-singing while they work-men and women alike. Have a couple photos posted of the horses threshing the wheat afterward. Invited to a party for the field workers that night, but we all passed and sat around w/the families w/a buta-lantern talking, dancing, being silly. Went next door so the neighbor could show us all her carpets, incl. rag rugs. We asked if any were for sale. Yes. I can’t believe she sold me her wedding blanket-traditional attire for wedding day. No man around, maybe it lost its sentimental value to her-it’s very cool. She wanted a lot more than anyone wanted to pay for the other rugs she was willing to sell, but there was no way we wanted to try to negotiate her down-they have no flus in these parts.

So it was quite the contrast to last year’s Fourth of July, where 3 couples came down to Huntington Beach-we did the parade, drank, grilled, watched fireworks from the rooftop-a completely decadent, hysterical weekend-long party. This year was w/Moroccan families, British and PCV friends where I’m feeling guilty about letting a friend down, going home early and feeling punk. Oh well. Move on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Perhaps No More

Did you know that Baraka Robama means Perhaps No More? No, this is not a play on words. In Darija, baraka = no more and robama = perhaps. Kinda fitting for our new President, yak? So why did I just figure this out? Because until now, I would have said “ymkn safi” to mean perhaps no more (and why would I say that phrase anyway…), and that would also have been correct. Yes, the vocabulary continues to build. Aren’t you glad?

Just realizing that another month is behind us. How could that happen so quickly? Been in Morocco 10 months already. Wow. Feeling like I’ll never get everything done, so this week talked w/Zahra about starting a bi-weekly workshop series for the women of the Coop. Talk about different aspects of the business of the Coop, to get them thinking about it as a business, their roles, what needs to be done, what they can do to further the goals of the Coop. Inshallah this will help them also talk about topics that they never discuss-they’re things that Zahra and Fatima take care of, but they need to get help-can’t continue to do it all themselves-that’s just not sustainable.

Interesting morning in Fes. Transit gods smiling on me-every taxi I approached had 5 people just waiting for a 6th to take off. Hamdullah. Got to the Artisana guy to negotiate for delivery of tables and chairs for Workshop/Craft Fair. Inshallah. Got to American Language Center to talk thru the program dates again. They have the challenge of getting 10 weeks of class (incl. 10 Saturdays) in between the Islamic calendar holidays, incl. Leid sgir, Leid kbir and the Islamic New Year. No easy task. We think we’ve got new dates for the event that straddles class terms. Inshallah. Go across the street to plead my case to the private school to let the artisans “bunk” (sleep on the floor) in their school during the Workshop/Craft Fair. Talked to the owner and the mudir. Told they can’t make a decision alone (really?). Everyone else on vacation and closed in August, so won’t know until September. That’s a Moroccan “Inshallah” which translates to “NO WAY”. Oh well. Then off to the equip rental guy to negotiate 2 days of tent rental for one. Got it done. Good ROI. Just 50DH transit fare to Fes and back for the day and saved us 1500DH. If only it was out of the same pocket. All of this done before noon when everything shuts down. Learning how to get things done, Morocco-style.

So I’ve decided that it’s about time I added another lesson in Moroccan Culture to my ramblings…. today’s topic is Argon Oil-exclusively from Morocco. See this interesting overview that comes from .......<<>>.......

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the endemic argan tree, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally difficult conditions of southwestern Morocco. The species Argania once covered North Africa and is now endangered and under protection of UNESCO.[1] The Argan tree grows wild in semi-desert soil, its deep root system helping to protect against soil erosion and the northern advance of the Sahara.[2] This biosphere reserve, the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve, covers a vast intramontane plain of more than 2,560,000 hectares, bordered by the High Atlas and Anti-Atlas Mountains and open to the Atlantic in the west. Argan oil remains one of the rarest oils in the world due the small and very specific growing area.

Centuries before modern times, the Berbers (indigenous people of Morocco) of this area would collect undigested argan pits from the waste of goats which climb the trees to eat their fruit. The pits were then ground and pressed to make the nutty oil used in cooking and cosmetics. However, the oil used in cosmetic and culinary products available for sale today has most likely been harvested and processed with machines in a verifiably clean and sanitary way.

The oil was sold in Moroccan markets even before the Phoenicians arrived, yet the hardy argan tree has been slowly disappearing. Overgrazing by goats and a growing, wood-hungry local population have whittled the number of surviving trees down to less than half of what it was 50 years ago.

The tree is a relic of the earth's Tertiary Period, which ended about 1.6 million years ago, and it grows in only a few other places in the world. It is tenacious, withering and fruitless during extended droughts, and it lives as long as 200 years. So there was alarm that the Argania spinosa, as the tree is properly called, was headed for extinction, along with its precious goat-related oil.

Unesco, and people excited by the oil's reputed anti-aging qualities have helped by creating a global market for the exotic oil, the unlikely alliance hopes to raise awareness about the inherent value of the trees, encouraging more careful grazing and stopping the local population from chopping the trees down for firewood. The people in the area are poor, as they now understand the value of the tree, they are protecting it.

Unesco declared a 25,900-square-kilometer of land between the Atlantic and the Atlas Mountains and provided money to manage the trees' preservation. Chefs and society matrons took up the cause, praising the culinary qualities of the oil and its anti-aging effect on the skin. There is also a ban against grazing in the trees from May to August, when the fruit ripens to a bright yellow and eventually the goats climb the trees, eat the fruit and expel the pits, which locals continue to collect.

At the Cooperative in Tiout, Berber women sit on the floor with rough rectangular stones between their knees cracking pits with rounded rocks. Each smooth pit contains one to three kernels, which look like sliced almonds and are rich in oil. The kernels are then removed and gently roasted. This roasting accounts for part of the oil's distinctive, nutty flavour. It takes several days and about 32 kilograms of fruit - roughly one season's produce from a single tree - to make only one liter of oil. The cosmetic oil, rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, is used for massage, facials and as an ingredient in anti-aging cream. The edible oil is extracted from roasted kernels.

Most of the oil is bottled pure for cooking, as a dressing on salads, meat or fish or simply as a dip for bread. The Tiout cooperative produces about 5,000 250-milliliter bottles of the edible oil a year. 250 ml of oil sells for as much as $30 a bottle. The oil can be purchased at the Cooperative in Tiout but the neighbouring city of Agadir sells the oil for a fair price as well.

Argan oil is exceptionally rich in natural tocopherols (vitamin E), rich in phenols and phenolic acid, rich in carotenes, rich in squalene, rich in essential fatty acids, 80% unsaturated fatty acids[3] and depending on extraction method more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.

Argan oil is used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads and similar uses. The residue from traditional oil extraction is a thick chocolate-coloured paste called "amlou" which is sweetened and served as a dip for bread at breakfast time. It has a flavour similar to that of peanut butter.

Yeah, yeah, Baraka Robama to you too.