In Essaouira – a little town in Morocco – once can still find remnants of of a bohemian past, when it was part of the well heeled road from Marrakesh to the coastal waters for a hip surfing adventure. Visitors still come to what is considered one of the world’s top windsurfing and kiteboarding spots. In recent years, new travelers to town include the fashionable Europeans who stray from the touristy Marrakesh and head to Essaouira for sunbathing on the beautiful white beaches. The town has a vibrant cultural life, with art galleries and music festivals and local artisanal crafts. You can browse the local markets for all kinds of treasure there.
The real gem, however, is argan oil, which is made from the nuts of the argan tree. Grown almost exclusively in this region, the argan tree holds the Sahara dessert at bay, keeping it from encroaching into habited areas. The argan tree is often called the “tree of Life” and its round lemon shaped fruits produce nuts which look like a cross between a walnut and an almond. The gnarled trees grow slowly and dot the yellow hills above Essaouira.
Argan oil benefits has restorative and age-defying effects that have helped it become one of the latest miracle ingredients in the beauty industry. High in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, it helps all sorts of skin conditions ranging from dry cracked skin to acne acne, psoriasis, eczema and wrinkles. Moroccans slather it on their skin, hair, nails and even their babies.
When you travel to Essaouira you will pass by olive groves and grazing donkeys. Soon you will see signs announcing the women-run argan cooperatives. They will say “Argan Co-Op,” “Women’s Argan Collective,” “Argan Oil,” “Miracle Argan Oil,” and so on. If you stop in at one of the cooperatives, the Berber women will often invite you in to watch them work. Most of the time the older village women sit in the courtyard on the floor and work producing the argan oil for skin as the younger bilingual girls take you on a tour, showing you the process of how argan oil is made.
First the women crack open the shells with sharp stones. Then they place the kernels between two rough looking slabs of rock and grind them into a brown paste that looks like almond or peanut butter. This paste is then kneaded by hand to extract the oil. In this process it is transformed into a solid chunk that is then to nearby factories, mainly in Agadir, where more oil is extracted by a press. Some of this argan oil is made into soaps, creams or shampoos, but it is the pure oil that is the most prized product.
Argan is has been available in Europe for quite some time, since English and French tourists started bringing it back from their Moroccan seaside vacations. But then the Moroccan King Mohammed VI (who has been praised for his efforts to promote women’s rights) and the local government, created protections and incentives for the oil to be exported worldwide.
The extraction of argan oil is a very labor-intensive task that has been perfected by the Berber women native to the area. It actually takes a few days for one cooperative to produce one liter. The government helped by establishing the cooperatives. Outside groups, including the government of Monaco, have gotten involved as backers. Local women from the villages in the area are invited to work half days (so that they still are able to tend to their families) in exchange for fair wages and good working conditions and Unesco designated the 10,000-square-mile argania region as a biosphere reserve.
Now this “liquid gold,” as it is often called, is being more and more known for its luxurious properties. Argan oil uses & it is sourced from one of these cooperative in Essaouira. Pure argan oil’s amazing ability to deal with so many skin and hair problems is remarkable and helps slove so many problems for people’s skin and hair care needs makes this product amazing enough. But knowing that the oil passes the sustainability test and directly benefits the women who make it makes this wide world that much beautiful of a place. Beauty is indeed much more than skin deep!