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Lesson Transcript

Munia: Hello, Casablanca. Munia here.
Shama: Shama here. Welcome back to the second episode of this Culture Series fully dedicated to Moroccan culture. Each lesson is recorded in the amazing city of Casablanca. Remember we talked about Casablanca in the previous lesson, didn’t we?
Munia: Yes, and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
Shama: Each time we introduce a new topic on the customs, traditions and the rich culture of Morocco.
Munia: Today we’re going to talk about something very specific to Morocco, something so rare and precious and healthy…
Shama: Oh, come on, just tell us what it is.

Lesson focus

Munia: The Argan oil. In Arabic, it’s [زيت أرڨان].
Shama: Now why is it so rare and precious?
Munia: Because the Argan tree from which the oil is extracted, grows exclusively in the south-western part of Morocco. And the production of this oil is a demanding and laborious process, which is still almost completely realized by hand.
Shama: Wow, so this tree grows nowhere else in the world. For centuries, women of this mostly rural region have produced Argan oil which was used for their consumption and traditional Moroccan medicine. It is believed to help many skin conditions such as wrinkles and scars.
Munia: Well, that helps. It can be eaten and can also be used on the face and elsewhere on the body.
Shama: Mhm. Moroccans eat it in salads and couscous, they slather it on the skin, hair, nails and even their babies. [unintelligible 00:01:55] Berber women in the south of Morocco have known about its skin preserving properties for years.
Munia: Actually, in recent years it has become one of the latest miracle ingredients in the beauty industry worldwide. Now it is moving from the [unintelligible 00:02:11] modern stone co-ops into luxurious spas around the world.
Shama: I'm afraid we’re starting to sound like a commercial here.
Munia: You’re right. Let’s stop bragging about the oil and get into more technical stuff.
Shama: Well, not too technical either.
Munia: The Argan tree is a very resistant tree which can live up to 200 years and it is perfectly adapted to the harsh climate of the south-western regions of Morocco. It’s sort of a semi-desert environment. Its roots grow deep in search of water, and so they help retain the soil, limiting the advance of the desert.
Shama: The fruits of the Argan tree are green and they look like an olive, but are larger and rounder. Inside, there is a hard-shell nut from which the oil is extracted. Have you ever tasted the oil?
Munia: Yeah, it has a rich, nutty and smoky flavor.
Shama: Aha. The Argan trees are covered with spikes so it’s difficult to pick the fruit which is gathered off the ground when they have dropped in late summer. Do you know what happens next?
Munia: Then the fruit is peeled from the nuts and the nuts are cracked between heavy stones one by one.
Shama: And finally, the seeds at the center of the nuts are pressed to produce the oil.
Munia: Nothing is wasted. The fruit is fed to the goats and the cracked shells are used as fuel.
Shama: Talking about goats, have you heard about the trees and the goats?
Munia: No… What goats?
Shama: Well, since there’s nothing to eat in the desert, the goats climb the Argan trees and eat their fruits. But the funny thing is the stones of the fruit are so hard that they pass right through the goat and out the other end undigested, so the women collect the stones, smash them open and crush the seeds to make the oil.
Munia: Shama, I hope that doesn’t put off our listeners.
Shama: Well, no, actually… they banned goats and all animals now for the tree’s groves a few months prior to harvesting.
Munia: Well, I do have something else I want to talk about. It involves no goats and it’s the significance of the Argan tree for the tribeswomen in the south. In fact, it’s locally referred to as “the tree of life”. Do you know why?
Shama: Because the traditional methods of harvesting and producing the oil preserve a nation's way of life?
Munia: That and because it provides a living for local women in the region. It has sustained generations during periods of drought. Also, it has been a source of work for building structures and food for cattle.
Shama: And almost a decade ago, UNESCO added the Argan tree to the world heritage list.
Munia: So, Shama, where can we find this oil?
Shama: Well, at the trendiest restaurants in Morocco. I’ve actually had a salad last night with roasted vegetables sprinkled with Argan oil.
Munia: Sounds delicious! I don’t eat it as much though but I like it in body oils. They sell these really cute bottles of body lotions and hair products based on the oil at a store near my place. Very nice stuff.
Shama: And I think it’s a very good souvenir to offer your family and friends when you visit the country.
Munia: I agree. And I would even recommend going south of Morocco to where these trees grow, and see how the local women still produce the oil using traditional ways.
Shama: That’s a very good idea, but trains don’t reach that far so you’d be better off driving.
Munia: Even better if you can take a local friend with you.
Shama: You’re actually giving me ideas for the weekend.


Munia: Aha. As for now, don’t forget to leave us a post. And I hope you guys enjoyed today’s class on [زيت أرڨان].
Shama: Goodbye.
Munia: [إلى اللّقاء]