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September 1st 2018
Published: October 21st 2018
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Goats in TreesGoats in TreesGoats in Trees

OMG I saw this on the internet and thought it was photo shopped. I stand corrected.
There I was, a lone woman in a sea of men, sitting in a café. We are all facing in the same direction, towards the street, sipping Moroccan mint tea from impossibly tiny cups, and watching the world go by. No one bothers me. No one stares at me. No one acknowledges me. It's a little weird. But I like it.

Later in the day I ask, "Where are all the women?"

My newly hired fixer seemed startled by my question. "The women are at home, where they belong." He lightly scoffs.

Instantaneously, I feel my feminist dander skyrocket to a Def Com 5, but I keep my mouth shut. Right. I'm a worldly optimist that respects all religions, no matter how misogynistically f**ed up they may seem, don't engage, don't engage. I sit there in silence simmering over his nonchalant statement.

Noureddine shrugs and smiles broadly at me, and without skipping a beat, says, “The women, they don’t want us around. They kick us out of their houses each morning, we must fend for ourselves.” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. “Our cafes are refugee camps for middle-aged men." He adds.

I burst out laughing. I'm pretty sure if this were an option in Canada, my newly retired mother would have kicked my father out of her house at first light too. Well done Ladies of Morocco.

Getting past these traditional differences, I find Moroccan life and history fascinating! Like, did you know the Jews were the first people to attempt to live on this hot dusty corner of Africa? Noureddine goes on to explain Moroccan culture from start to finish as we bump along a potholed road high in the Atlas Mountains. We are visiting a Berber community today.

I ask if they are expecting us, and he looks amused. Apparently, anyone can drop in on anyone in Morocco and expect a high level of hospitality.

Leaving the car, we hike up to a village clinging to the cliff side. The men of the household are long gone. Kicked out at dawn, they’re off to the monthly market for a day of selling things and socializing. The matriarch of the family is a stern woman, we enter her house and shuffle past the animal barracks, up a wooden ladder to a sitting area with a patio deck. She immediately puts on
Narrow streets of MarrakechNarrow streets of MarrakechNarrow streets of Marrakech

Loved getting lost in the old souq of Marrakech
the kettle for tea. A tray of freshly baked bread appears with bowls of flowery honey and olive oil, pressed just this morning. For dipping. It's pure heaven. Summers must be so sweltering hot here, but by the way the adobe houses are designed, a cool breeze drifts through the courtyard consistently. It's heavenly. I admire their spectacular view of the valley as the younger women of the household mill about in the background sneakily checking me out.

The mint tea offered is the best I've ever had, there is no sugar in it, but it is impossibly sweet & delicious. I go back for seconds and thirds. Noureddine translates as I politely ask the typical questions about Berber life. She appeases me but is bored, and at one point says I have kind eyes. We leave her with a little gratuity and hit the road.

The Berber market is quite the spectacle. No one cares I'm the only women there. The men drift about in their flowing caftans, kissing cheeks. Noureddine says my existence is so far out of their realm of comprehension, they won't even acknowledge me. That is, until I pull out my camera and
As Old as an Argan TreeAs Old as an Argan TreeAs Old as an Argan Tree

Berber woman spends her day cracking Argon nuts for the local co-op
click a photo or two.

Suddenly, I've gathered an angry crowd, and my fixer scrums in to break up the yelling matches going on all around me. I just wanted to capture the moment a whole dead sheep was dunked headfirst into a massive clay pot to be stuffed into a ground oven for roasting. “This should not be filmed.” Noureddine scolds. He won't say why.

After things dissipate with handshakes and kisses, Noureddine unabashedly starts his own weekly shop. He sees the puzzled look on my face and says, "Prices are 3 times less than what they are in Marrakesh." I too come away with a fruit salad in a bag. But apparently my money is no good here. Everyone shyly hands me my wares, but waves me off when I try to pay them.

Where can we see some Argan trees? I ask. Because I am a horticulture buff and this is the stuff I live for. Without hesitation, Noureddine swings the car around and heads back up into the mountains. As usual, I seek out strange and rare plant anomalies of the particular country I'm visiting. It’s just what I do. He takes me
Rocking OutRocking OutRocking Out

Men entertain in the Souk with traditional songs. They didn't know Smoke on the Water.
to a local co-op, where the village’s Berber women have been organized to produce Argan oils as a way to benefit their way of life.

The Argan tree (Argania spinosa) is a species that is 80 million years old, and the only one left of its kind in the Argania genus. It grows nowhere else on earth. Less than a century ago, this tree had vast tracts of forest across the arid north west of Africa. All gone now. The remaining trees sparsely dot the dry landscape west of Marrakech. Only now are the cosmetic companies and health food monopolies discovering what the Berbers always knew. This gnarled biblical tree produces the most beneficial oil known to man. Under its thick fruit hides a hard nut that is rich with oil laden seeds. The liquid gold is called “Miracle Oil,” and thought to be a preventative for cancers as well as cures for many other ailments. It is used in everything from hair conditioners to toe fungus salve. Simply put, the Argan tree does everything, including providing an economic future for the local Berber women. It allows them freedoms in this strict Islamic country to make money to feed
Jemaa el Fna MinoretJemaa el Fna MinoretJemaa el Fna Minoret

The mosque tower pierces the evening sky
their families and thereby rising them up from their acute poverty and hardships.

At the co-op, little Grannies, as old as the nuts themselves, sit in groups gossiping and cracking nuts. A difficult feat, I attempt it, but smash the nut to smithereens while they all giggle at me. Using an ancient pestle and some serious muscle power, they grind the pulp and extract the precious oil. My fixer settles in with his cup of coffee for a long chat with the Berber men who loiter out in the shade, as I am swiftly escorted away by the women to be shown their wares. I find myself surrounded and smothered by beauty products and salad dressings.

They get about $130 of my money after the bartering dust settles.

Before the day gets too late, we travel back to Marrakech. The afternoon’s shadows paint a myriad of colours upon the steep mountains, the snow caps have only melted in the past week. In the narrow river gorge below, I'm told it is a popular spot for the Marrakech city folk during the heat of the summer. There are endless plastic chairs and tables set up in the water
Pointy shoes for everyonePointy shoes for everyonePointy shoes for everyone

Colourful markets of Marrakech where you can buy anything and everything.
with corresponding food shacks. Even though it’s over 30 degrees today, no one is around. After we make a pit stop at an uncle's cousin's father's sister-in-law's house so that Noureddine can buy a couple litres of some super cheap extra extra extra virgin olive oil from a backyard vat, we part ways. I spend the evening by myself exploring the city and eating in a restaurant where all the male patrons are facing the same direction, towards the street. I have one of the best lamb tajines, with almonds and apricots and a side of couscous before I call it a night.

The next day, Noureddine is patiently waiting for me.

Marrakech is just waking up. Shop owners dutifully sweep sidewalks and place their goods out. The cafes are full of forward-facing, middle-aged men. I smile to myself. This peaceful, pleasant city is entirely made of smooth terracotta clay buildings, Noureddine explains how in the summer the sun’s oppressive heat is deflected by the clay, keeping the interiors cool. Pigeons peak out from the holes left behind by old wooden scaffolding. Traffic is orderly, albeit far from sane.

I politely demand to be taken to see
Visit to Auntie BerbersVisit to Auntie BerbersVisit to Auntie Berbers

Everyone in the villages so welcoming with mint tea and fresh bread.
“Goats in Trees.”

Noureddine finds this baffling but he indulges my whim. We speed through miles and miles of desolate countryside as the patchwork of endless olive orchards and grape vineyards stretches beyond. And sure enough, much to my delight, we come across Argan trees with heaps of goats in them.

I could have sworn this was just a photo shop prank on the Internet, until now.

Long ago, Moroccan herders realized the symbiotic benefit. Their goats, who naturally challenge each other with who can be the highest, tallest goat, climb up into the Argan trees to eat the fruit. Then shit out the nuts. Which are effortlessly gathered from under the trees and sold. Sounds oddly similar to the plight of the civet cats of the Indonesian coffee craze, but I digress. They stand stoically on their individual branches, chewing their cud, like they are waiting for a bus or something. I stand underneath mesmerized by it all. They are super friendly, and come down a bit to greet me as I hand them half eaten fruit I’ve scavenged off the ground.

OMG who doesn’t love a goat? In a tree?

We stay until
Tree Goat manTree Goat manTree Goat man

He was very proud of his crazy goats.
Noureddine gets bored, so I suggest we take lunch at the seaside town of Essaouira. To break up the day.

Noureddine drops me off with a pick up time of 3 pm. What a lovely place. I had no idea. This beach resort goes for miles along the coastline, I take a stroll through the shore foam and watch locals play in the surf. The restaurant serves alcohol, and I order up a wine while my whole fried fish is ceremonially plonked on my plate.

Back in Marrakech, I spend more time by myself waiting for my friend to fly in. I decide to walk to the Jemaa el Fna from my Riyadh. The smell of rain weighs heavy in the overcast sky. It is unseasonably humid, but I walked and walked anyways before I spied the multitude of families strolling towards the Koutoubia Mosque minaret. I followed. A spectacle of chaos unfolds before me in this gigantic square. Snake charmers bleat their annoying horns at limp snakes, dancing boys prance about, magicians and story tellers pull in speculative customers with animated gesturing. As the wails from the call to prayer bounce off the terracotta walls. Crowds thicken.
Berber VillagesBerber VillagesBerber Villages

In the Atlas mountains, Berber communities continue to thrive.

This was the exact moment I fell in love with Marrakech.

I did a quick perimeter sweep prior to my venturing closer to the epicenter. The fruit juice salesman shout charming flirtations in my direction, their smiling faces full of missing teeth. I was verbally assaulted by endless food stall hawkers all trying to get me to patronage their food tent. Hungry though, I scoped out the one that had the most Moroccans dining and bellied up to the bar and all was good until I saw severed sheep heads proudly decorating the counter space in front of me. I tried not to barf. Smoke fills the air, meat is charred, and the circus-like ambiance intensifies as twilight encroaches. My plate was heaped with deliciously seasoned grilled meat, and overcooked vegetables.

I turn to watch as people gather around games of chance. My vantage point also allows me to spot the band of pickpocket specialists zeroing in on the crowd squeezing around the street performers doing strange skits. Ones I cannot follow. It’s only when this elderly man starts flailing about on the ground with his thongs taped to the side of his head, I decide
Hey Baby Want some OJHey Baby Want some OJHey Baby Want some OJ

Flirty juice men find a customer to help them squeeze their lemons.
I’m out.

Gleefully, I make a bee line for the brightly lit Souks. Spoiler: 8 out of the 8 most common scams were ALL tried out on me within 10 minutes. 8 out of 8 failed.

The Souk was a mishmash of crazy alleyways crammed with anything and everything. Leather goods, lamps, spices, clothing, food. I spent maybe three hours in there before I proudly found my way out.

At my Riyadh the next morning, breakfast was served out in the courtyard. The owner, a robust lady whom exudes wealth, lounges in her flowing caftan, cell phone stuck to one ear, while her house staff dash about. I glean that her adult children all live stateside, and her husband is in Dubai on business. Luckily for me she makes herself available for chats and recommendations of what to explore on my last day here in Marrakech. Staying in a private home (Riyadh) is brilliant, and a must do! I highly recommend it instead of staying in a hotel.

Back when I was planning my Moroccan trip, I really did believe Marrakech was going to be nothing more than a ketchy tourist trap. I was so wrong.
Sad DonkeySad DonkeySad Donkey

Poor things. I hope they come back in another life as sultans.
Yes, it does have that contrived “entertain the tourists” vibe to it, and maybe, way back in the 60’s it would have been genuinely mysterious and exotic, but it's still worthwhile visiting. If I were to time travel back to the hippy years, I would have never been able to leave Morocco, willfully.

Once again I find myself suffering from that travel affliction I call, so much to see, not enough time.

My friend from Canada is flying into Marrakech today. Together, we will embark on a desert trek into the Sahara. Look out camels, here we come.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Riyadh LuxuryRiyadh Luxury
Riyadh Luxury

Why stay in a hotel when you can live in the beautiful home of one of the locals?
Bag O NutsBag O Nuts
Bag O Nuts

Argan, one of the most coveted nuts in the world, only grows in Morocco and does everything.
Streets of MarrakechStreets of Marrakech
Streets of Marrakech

Very clean and tidy, such a lovely place to visit. Safe and friendly.
Sheep Heads for DinnerSheep Heads for Dinner
Sheep Heads for Dinner

Nothing like seeing what you are going to be eating before you eat it.
Snake CharmersSnake Charmers
Snake Charmers

Poor snakes, had pretty much lost the will to live. Every once in a while one would rear up annoyed. But it was very sad.
My fixer takes a tea breakMy fixer takes a tea break
My fixer takes a tea break

Such a lovely, laid back man, who spend the day explaining Berber culture and traditions to me, in between tea breaks of course.
Summer RetreatSummer Retreat
Summer Retreat

When it gets too hot in Marrakech during the summer, everyone heads for the hills and picnics in the river.
Do you know where I can buy some mint?Do you know where I can buy some mint?
Do you know where I can buy some mint?

Mint man sells his wares. You can smell it a mile away
Argan oil extractionArgan oil extraction
Argan oil extraction

Done by hand, just like this for hundreds of years
Souk shoppingSouk shopping
Souk shopping

Lots of locals picking up a deal at the night Souk in Marrakech

22nd October 2018
Goats in Trees

I too had seen this pic somewhere, a photo or a documentary. Didn't expect to find it in this blog! Now I know where to look for goats in a tree.
22nd October 2018
Goats in Trees

Hi Hem! I’m glad I’m not the only one that wondered if goats in trees actually exist! My fact finding mission complete! Thanks for reading
22nd October 2018

Argan oil
Love the short lecture on Argan oil and why goats climb trees. Looking forward to reading more about your trip in Morocco. I plan to go there when I go back to Spain someday
22nd October 2018

Oh yes, Josevich, Morocco is a must for an adventurer like you! Remember to bring the right collared scarf this time! Thanks for reading!
22nd October 2018

We saw the goats in the argan trees on the way from Marrakech to Essaouira. We use it like a "Snakes on a Plane" code between ourselves. Whenever we see people doing something that strikes us as odd we quietly mumble "Goats in the Trees" to each other. No one ever knows what we mean as we laugh to ourselves
22nd October 2018

Ha ha! That’s great. I had to take videos because I know no one at home will believe me. I am currently considering goats in trees for my family vineyard. Might draw in those winos..
22nd October 2018
Rocking Out

Mmmm. You convey the sights, sounds and smells so well Andrea. Pleased to hear the underbelly of Morocco is still ancient...and fascinating.
23rd October 2018
Rocking Out

Hello Dancer! Glad to hear from you! Enjoyed Morocco immensely. Only regret was not enough time.
23rd October 2018

That Kiki gets around :)
I think I knew you were heading for Morocco, but had clearly forgotten - stupid memory. I hadn't heard of argan oil until I started using a few Lush items that contain it - I'm very curious about whether you like the products you bought! I've heard mixed reviews of the goats in trees experience, and had decided it was a dodgy setup... but given you didn't detect any dodginess, I'll have to review this position. Looking forward to reading about your camel experience :)
23rd October 2018

Kiki’s my man
Well Hi there! Ah yes, mixed reviews on the Argan products so far, it’s a bit oily on my already oily hair. Nice on the skin, the pure stuff seems to sink in and leave it silky and soft. I’m taking some oil for my digestion and that has been fantastic, and the nut butter delicious on toast. Ah my Goats. I too was thinking contrived, but when I got there it seemed so natural and unstaged. Sometimes you just have to go see for yourself to judge! Hilariously worth it!
26th October 2018
Goats in Trees

Wish I had seen that
We totally missed that when we were in Morocco. I would have loved to see tree climbing goats. I guess we have to go back some day. /Ake
26th October 2018
Goats in Trees

Ha! That’s a Great excuse to go back to Morocco!! Like you needed one?
27th October 2018

Clinging to the cliffside
You are not kidding or exaggerating.... those Atlas Mountains are some serious business. Can't wait until we see you again and I tell you all about our guide and his non-caring feelings about what would happen to his wife after his death. Astounding thinking and lifestyles. The mint tea all over the country is unbelievable. One day when we were shopping in the souks and I was bargaining for a piece of jewelry and I LOVE to bargain... finally he met my price. As he was wrapping it up he said to me that my ancestors must have been berbers. I thanked him with a sly smile. We stayed in Essaouria for two nights. It was lovely. I'm gullible and believed the goats got in the trees. Dave suggested with that all knowing look that it was a tourist attraction. Not that a goat never climbed a tree before but he pointed out a couple of wooden planks for the goat to stand on and questioned me as to why the goats were only in this tree beside the highway... and why the two little boys wanted money. Ok, I liked it anyway. We never tired of the circus that was Marrakech. Loved the riyadhs. MJ
27th October 2018

Berber Genes
Ha! You and my mum both. Berber barterers. I didn't care if the Goats in Trees were a tourist thing or not, it was so funny. These ones appeared to be actually eating the fruit. The goat herder says this was the time of year, other times, just for show. So I guess Dave was right. Ah what the hell. Such a great place to visit. Love Marrakech!
18th November 2018

Sorry I'm a bit late to this blog. Great to see you travelling again Andrea. I imagine indeed that the tricksters and scammers of the Marrakech markets could get nothing on you! Interesting to read about Argan, and the tree-dwelling goats. Also great to hear you made it to Essaouira - one of my favourite places in Morocco ? I look forward to reading more.
20th November 2018

I can see why Essasouira is a fav place for you! So great all of it! i really enjoyed Morocco albeit a short trip, but none the less amazing. Thanks for paving the way for the rest of us to experience it. What’s next for you?
23rd November 2018

Next Trip
Good to hear, I look forward to reading more about your trip ? Next big trip for me is a summer adventure around Peru, Ecuador and hopefully the Galapagos ?
26th November 2018

Refugee Camps for Middle Aged Men
Morocco has always been high on my "list". Your evocative piece makes me want to go that much more. The scene and banter in the cafe were priceless.
27th November 2018

Thanks Tommy No Papers! I definately recommend Morocco to a traveler such as yourself. So much to see and explore. It's a bit of a thrill knowing someone might go there after reading one of my blogs!
1st December 2018

Bringing back memories
I visited 40 years ago and it was my first time outside of a western country. I crossed over from Spain and spent the next two days in my hotel, too frightened to venture out, waiting for the next boat back to Spain. I eventually stayed a month and loved it. What nice memories your post brings back.
2nd December 2018

Bringing back memories
Wow that was pretty brave 40 years ago. I only wished I’d gone in my 20s. It would have been so authentic and unspoiled! I still loved Morocco and plan to go back! How about you?
19th January 2019

Not so brave ...
I didn't have much idea of where I was going at the time. I just wanted to travel. The big difference these days is that everywhere is so overrun by tourists. As I am a tourist too, I can't really complain. So I have adapted -- no travel during the summer and holiday periods, and seeing some popular sites only from the outside. I won't stand in line to see anything and I have never waited for my turn to take a selfie at a popular attraction for instagram. I also spend most of the holiday on a mini road trip outside of the main cities. I don't think Morocco has changed too much from the photos that I have seen. Sure they have resorts now but the rest looks the same. Would love to go back one day.

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