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Argan oil throughout history

Posted by Mohammed Biyjeddiguene on


After having exposed some of the capital uses of the Argan oil such as its several uses for the skin and fine cuisine, we intend to grant you a rather summarized exposé on how the Argan oil came to have the value it has nowadays.

We’ve gathered up some historical facts concerning the development of the Argania in Amazigh regions throughout history!

Origins

The Argan oil is extracted from the Argania, a tree that is emblematic of Morocco. In fact, this particular tree only grows in this region of the world, in the infamous triangle located, between Agadir Essaouira and Taroudant. We sometimes find this tree in the heart of Algeria. Apparently, it is this kind of sunny environment that favors its flourishing.


The Argania is also called “The tree of women” due to the fact that women, gathered up in groups and cooperatives, handle the production. This gigantic thorny tree can reach up to 10 m of Height, with its knotty trunk and extremely resistant bark, and can live up to 200 years.

According to observations, it seems that even under the pressure of climbing goats, the tree does not give in and rises from the ashes. Its quality tractive roots provide a steady ground and a continuous water supply. The Argania protects other surrounding plants using its effective shadow.

This strong tree surely presents an array of advantages. Its leaves and fruits are consumed by animals : goats, sheep and camels sometimes. The tree’s wood is of good quality and can be used for solid structures. It is also frequently used for heating wood...The nuts of the fruit contains a very rich oil that can be employed in cosmetics as well of culinary ends.

History 

During the tertiary era, the Argania Spinosa benefited from a hot tempered climate, which favoured its development. It spread along the vast fields of Morocco at the west and Algeria to the east. Later on, during the Quaternary glaciation, the Argania moved to the southern west This explains its presence dans the Rabat region in the north, near the mediterranean sea ( Béni-Snassen mounts), and in the northern western Oujda. They can also be found around Tindouf in Algeria.

The Pheniciens were the very first to use this extremely luminous oil in their oil lamps. The berbers of the Atlas have always used the oil, one of the rarest goods they own. They would even offer, as a duty of hospitality, argan oil with honey.

The climbing goats might be the sworn enemy of an Agrania, but they did play an influential role in discovering and developing the argan oil.


Cultural aspects

Traditionally mythical, The Argania is a renowned sacred tree. For the people, specifically for the amazigh, it is considered “the father of all” and a gift of God that deserves worshipping. In their perspective, the Argan oil represents a true “green gold” that buries in its confines a number of medicinal virtues. it is admired and constantly honored. Often, nevertheless, it is a source of conflict of exploitation. For the communities, it is also in the heart of the annual and seasonal spiritual rituals called “the Horoms”.



The exploitation of the Argania is governed by incredibly precise rules, which are preserved and guarded in the Agadir communal, a “fortified collective attic” in Amazigh. In times of political turbulence and war between villages and clans, these attics served the amazigh as a defense mechanism, and helped protect the food provisions (barley, almonds, argan nuts…).

Encrypted codes were also created following customs and were engraved on wooden boards, for instance the “Louhs” in the amazigh culture. On top of that, fines and penalties imposed sanction on unjustified and unauthorized cuttings.



For millenaries, amazigh women never ceased using the argan oil for cosmetic ends, culinary and medical all the same. They have unveiled the variety of many benefits that it presents. They have used it to protect their skin and their hairs, from the harsh climatic conditions that can be extremely rough such as strong winds and drying sun...

From birth to full adulthood, the argan oil is omnipresent and evokes just like moroccan tea, an art of living.