Long before Moroccan argan oil became popular in western society, it was a staple amongst the people of Morocco, used in cosmetics, beauty products, skincare and even in the diet. Apparently, the production begins with goats in trees that internally process the nut, then it takes a bit of manual work. We were lucky enough to witness most of it first-hand, and fortunate enough to get permission to take photos.
Our story of learning about Moroccan argan oil is best told from the beginning.
We were enjoying a cup of tea with new friends who had just arrived in Essaouira from the Sahara desert. They talked of goats in trees, climbing, eating, and being happy.
They had no photos as the goatherder chased them away. But, they were sure that’s what they had seen.
At first, we thought perhaps they had started happy hour a bit early, and it wasn’t just tea they were drinking.
We teased them a bit, but it didn’t last long. The riad owner quickly confirmed their story. Then he explained that the goats weren’t climbing just any tree. These are Argania Spinosa (Argan Trees), a native to the Souss-Massa-Drâa region of Morocco and western Algeria.
“The goats eat the nut, and what they poop out is the base ingredient used to make the oil that was on your salad last night.”
You see, as the nut passes through the goats, the husk softens making it easier to open.
As you can imagine, this was not received as well as they expected. In fact, one of the teenagers at the table jumped in with, “Are you suggesting there was poop in our salad?”
The continuing conversation intrigued us. Adventurous, and with no particular plan in mind, we decided we would set out in the morning, take a small detour and search for these famous goats in trees.
Moroccan argan oil roadside vendors
We had a morning swim before leaving the beautiful beaches of Essaouira. Rather than heading straight inland, we initially headed south along Morocco’s west coast towards Agadir, where we intended to turn inland.
We kept a keen watch for goats in trees, but there were none. However, we did pass several roadside vendors offering Moroccan argan oil.
Clearly homemade, the collection of bottles seemed random. And the different colours had different uses. But it didn’t really matter to us, as we were on a mission to find goats in trees.
Still unsure if the rumours are true, we didn’t stop at any of the vendor stands. We continued to wonder if goats could actually be the first step in the making of Moroccan argan oil.
We hadn’t seen goats between Marrakesh and Essaouira. And now, there were none between Essaouira and Agadir. Mostly, it was a barren desert leading out to the sea.
Finding goats in trees
The drive inland was smooth and much easier to maneuver than the crowded streets of Marrakesh or Essaouira had been.
With fewer drivers on the roads cutting us off, donkey carts now stayed on the shoulder, and almost no pedestrians ran randomly in front of the car. Roadside litter dotted the desert views, and finally, there they were … goats in trees.
I was glad I had been advised to ask permission before taking photos. I approached the goatherder first, and adding a bit of cash to the question helped to get that permission granted quickly.
He happily took the money and allowed me to photograph his goats.
The shots below were taken between Marrakesh and Essaouira, an area we didn’t see goats, but clearly, they are there. While we passed that way, we didn’t spot goats.
What happens next?
Yep, it’s true. The goats eat the nut, which passes through their digestive system intact, although with a softened husk. This makes it easier to open the nut and extract the needed seeds (up to three kernels in each seed) and ultimately make Moroccan argan oil.
(According to CBS News, this is not as rare of a process as one might imagine. In fact, Black Ivory Coffee beans start in elephant dung in Thailand. And, there is also the famous kopi luwak coffee whose beans process through a civet.)
How is Moroccan argan oil made?
As stated above, the traditional method allows the goats to process the nuts first, as this softens the husk. Then, according to the riad proprietor who took us to town, some Berber women will handpick through the poop, clean it, and open the nut to get at the seed.
The next step in the process is to laboriously hand grind the seeds, thus producing the oil.
Argan oil is frequently a family business. When our guide invited us into a family home to see the pressing, we felt honoured.
We watched two women grinding non-stop. While they allowed me to take their photos, they requested that I not include their faces.
Baskets of different seeds and nuts sat on a table. Our host explained which are for cosmetics and which are edible.
More on goats in trees and Moroccan argan oil
- Moroccan argan oil is often referred to as a miracle oil or liquid gold.
- Its benefits to skin and hair are well known. It’s also thought to aid in digestion, reduce joint pain, and stabilize blood sugar.
- We were able to apply a few drops on our skin, and also offered a small bowl of argan oil and bread for dipping. It’s smooth with a pleasant aroma and an acquired taste (although Jeff seemed to acquire the taste instantly).
- Standard practice is to offer a few coins in payment for taking photos, both at the trees and in the home.
- While we wonder if we could have brought fresh Moroccan argan oil back home to New Zealand (as we have strict biosecurity laws), I regret not purchasing more of the oil at Moroccan prices.
- Today, Moroccan argan oil seems to be a common ingredient in western hair and skin products. It’s even available in a variety of products on Amazon.
How to see goats in trees and learn about Moroccan argan oil if you don’t have a car
Getting around Morocco is easy, although different from other countries we have travelled through. We opted for train travel from Fes to Marrakesh, which included stops in Meknes, Casablanca, and Rabat.
However, the train ends at Marrakesh. We wanted to travel west to the Essaouira and Agadir coasts and also travel southeast into the Sahara, and it all made for a fabulous Moroccan road trip.
We thought about a tour, and that certainly would have made our lives easier, we would have been pulled over for fewer bogus traffic violations, and given us a level of comfort and security.
For us, we opted to hire a car, again taking an unnecessary risk. Rather than going with RentalCars, the company we have successfully used worldwide and that works with several companies in Marrakesh, Jeff opted to trust a handshake deal with a friend of the riad proprietor.
We got lucky, and it turned out okay. In fact, it was a fascinating adventure offering us some very interesting memories.
If you are not brave (or stupid, depending on your point of view), tours are the ideal solution. And from Agadir, there are options that will take you to Essaouira or to Taroudant and give you an opportunity to learn more about making Moroccan argan oil.
We added a touch of luxury to our travel
While in the region, we treated ourselves to a bit of luxurious relaxation at Riad Jnane Ines in Taroudant.
Fragrant lemon trees, a beautifully manicured garden, an outdoor pool, and a wellness centre made this a day of paradise amidst the general hustle we experienced throughout Morocco.
Relaxation opportunities abound. We spent time at the iconic keyhole-shaped pool, a shape commonly found in Moroccan doorways. We also opted for a hammam bath. This time we experienced the luxury reserved for tourists, a far cry from the drama of a traditional hammam we experienced in Marrakesh.
Our traditionally decorated unit featured colourful bathroom tiles, comfortable bedding, and attention to detail. And the food was equally impressive, although we only had a chance to eat breakfast.
Taroudant is a mix of traditional and modern lifestyles. We ate dinner at the pizza restaurant in the corner after our vegetarian daughter discovered that the adorable rabbits and chickens in the garden were on the dinner menu at the riad.
⇒ Check the impressive reviews and availability at Riad Jnane Ines
Save on your trip with these resources
These are our go-to companies when we travel. We believe this list to be the best in each category. You can’t go wrong using them on your trip too.
- Flights: we use Expedia for the best and cheapest flight options.
- Accommodations: we use Booking.com (hotels) or VRBO (self-contained).
- Cars (gas or electric): we use RentalCars to search for deals and dealer ratings.
- Campervans or Motorhomes: we use Campstar where Albom Adventures readers get a 3% discount
- Private guides: we love the private guides at Tours by Locals
- Travel Insurance: our go-to is World Nomads*.
Check out our travel resources page for more companies that we use when you travel.
*World Nomads provides travel insurance for travellers in over 100 countries. As an affiliate, we receive a fee when you get a quote from World Nomads using this link. We do not represent World Nomads. This is information only and not a recommendation to buy travel insurance.
If you enjoyed these images of goats in trees and the processes of making Moroccan argan oil, please pin them on Pinterest:
Have you seen goats in trees or tried Moroccan argan oil?
More of our travel anecdotes …
I’m dying to see these goats, Rhonda. We are headed to Portugal, Spain and Morocco in May, so I can hardly wait. I had no idea how Argan oil is made, or that goats have anything to do with the process. But I guess there is a lot more to find out about Morocco. Looking forward to talking to you about your trip. I need some tips and insider information before I go.
Such a fascinating article. I had heard of goats in trees in Morocco, although I’d not seen them. However, I didn’t know about their connection with argan oil (which I use for my curly hair!). Thanks for sharing, and what an amazing experience!
Wow, I learned so much from your article! I had no idea about all the work that goes into Argan oil. Those goats are pretty incredible hanging from tree limbs. Thanks for a really fun read. I hope to see this in person one day.
I was lucky enough to go to Morocco and shop some authentic Argan oil and I love the product! I wasn’t lucky enough to take a trip like yours and see these cuties on the trees and see more authenticity of this beautiful country! thanks for sharing! I hope I can go again soon to Morocco!
Ok, I have a lot to remember and think about next time I use my Moroccan Oil! Beautifully written a d educational x
Ohh, those goats :). Here, in Cyprus, we found them climbing trees too (not sure what’s variety though). It was quite a bizarre sight for an outsider inexperienced in goats’ habits.
Do you remember where exactly you spotted the goats? Close to Agadir? I am in Agadir right now and hired a taxi for tomorrow just to see the goats in the trees. I wonder how far it is..?
Sorry, not exactly. I know it was closer to Taroudant than to Agadir. I believe it was after the N8 on the stretch along P1714. We also saw them just on the far side of Taroudant on the N10 on the way to Ouarzazate. We had our car, so we just watched for them along the road. There will be a shepherd with them, and they were easy to spot. Your driver should know where the trees grow.
Thanks for your reply! I was lucky and saw them today 😉
Goats in trees?! So awesome! Love the photos and it sounds like a wonderful experience to be invited into one of the local’s homes to see how it is produced. I never realized how Aragon Oil was made, so it’s interesting to learn more about it as I’ve been seeing it in so many different products lately!
It was really interesting to find out and see the process. I am just glad I was able to take the photos and share them.
We bought a lot of Morrocan oil when we went to Morroco. I love it. It makes my skin so smooth I feel it is really effective.
I wish I had bought some when I was there.
Oh, Rhonda, those goats in the trees are so cute! You take the best photos ever! Is the Morocco the only country that makes argan oil? I buy some body lotion and shower gel with organ oil but they are made in Italy. After reading your post I began wondering if the Italians get the argan oil from Morocco or they produce their own.
Thanks Anda. I know believe the trees also grow in Algeria, but I have no idea if the oil is made there as well, nor if it is made in Italy.
That is so interesting! I’ve been to a Kopi Luwak local Balinese facility and personally witnessed the whole process of retrieving the coffee beans from the animal. I would never imagine reading about goats doing the same type of process for Argan oil.
Goats are so awesome. There is literally nowhere that they won’t climb, is there?
I’m seeing argan oil everywhere these days, both in markets and in cosmetics. It’s a good reminder to see how labor intensive it is – I’m guessing there’s very little genuine product in a lot of the lotions I see.
I’ve seen goats and I’ve seen trees, but I’ve never seen goats in trees! So it is true!
I buy products with argan oil and use argan oil too, but hopefully from the kind of nuts processed by human hands! 🙂
Elaine J Masters
I’ve seen Argan oil mixtures on shelves in California but had no idea of its benefits and process. Love that you were determined to find the goats doing their business. Enlightening!
What a beautiful part of Morocco! I never saw any goats in trees there, but I did see them in the desert in India. Fascinating that the women grind the seeds by hand — that must be so labor intensive.
Nice little story! If not for this I would never have known about this quirky little piece of artistry. Would love to buy some in Casablance whenever I do eventually get there! And ya goats in trees, reminds me of my childhood home in rural India!
Julie Kemp Pick
Hi Rhonda, I think blogger ate my comment. Fascinating photos of goats in trees! Interesting facts about Argan oil, and I will think twice before putting it in my hair again!
Now, being a farm kid growing up, it was not unusual to see all sorts of farm animals in all sorts of environments, but I’ve never seen goats in trees! Come to think about it, Argan Oil does feature in some hair products but I never knew the process it goes through. Really enjoyed this post, thanks.
I’ve never seen goats in trees but I’ve seen goats in the Swiss Alps and wondered how the heck they managed to climb certain mountains, so I’m not totally surprised about goats in trees in Morocco. However, your pics are nevertheless amazing. If someone had just told me, I might have believed he was making fun of me.
Oh my gosh goats in trees. That is the oddest things I have seen haha. Great info on the Argan Oil too
That’s just plain interesting. I had no idea. And coincidentally, I just bought my first bottle of “argan oil” shampoo the other day.
I didn’t know goats played a role in the processing of Argan oil. I enjoyed your photos and narrative.
Wow, I had no idea how much work goes into this process!
I didn’t expect goats in trees to actually be a real thing! Now that I see it, it oddly makes sense that they are a part of the process. 😁
Cori @ Sweet Coralice
That is so awesome! My family was just discussing the kopi luwak coffee process earlier this week. It was something my hubby brought up while we were driving and my kids couldn’t believe it! These photos are just gorgeous!
Wow! Who knew! When I saw the title of your post I didn’t expect it to be literal! I never thought I’d see that! Goats in trees! But I always love to hear how the products we use on a daily basis come to be. This is very interesting. Thanks!
That first goat in the photo looked a little indignant with you taking it’s photo. What a process for making oil. Poor women having to do all the hard work again. Must remember to not have any of the Coffee you mentioned.
wow, i am totally amazed, that was the neatest post i have read in weeks…. goats in trees…wow, still just shaking my head, very cool
Jim, Sydney, Australia
Cute photos – and I hate the idea of getting seeds out of poop
Isn’t this incredible?
Great to see how the goats help the argan oil process! I love argan oil on my face and hair, but haven’t tried eating it.
Very interesting. Thanks for teaching me about the oil. Love the goats in the trees. Very cool.
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of goats climbing trees with low branches, but have never seen them myself. What fun that would be!
Thank you for your informative post.
Love the goats in the trees. Too cute.
Don’t know anything about the oil. I loved your comment about acquired taste. That means I wouldn’t like it.
Have a fabulous day, Rhonda. ☺
No, you probably wouldn’t like it the first time you tried it. I didn’t have enough to know how long it takes to acquire a taste for it.
I knew goats liked to climb but did not know they could get in trees. That’s a first for me! Thanks for sharing!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
I take it the seeds those women were processing were not from goat poop?
I’d seen photos of the goats in trees before but didn’t know the full story of why or about the oil.
They could be, but they are well cleaned before the ladies get them.
indah nuria savitri
How I miss traveling to that side of the world! Morocco is always mesmerizing..love to see those goats up there!
Goats in trees! Amazing shots.
On the other hand, I prefer not to put goat poop leavings on my face and hair! YIKES!
The seeds are well cleaned. If you think about it for too long, there wouldn’t be much to eat. Afterall, it’s poop that makes up most of the fertilizer that grows our veggies.
Do you know what the pure cold pressed Argan oil from Morocco called, and where to buy it from?
I enjoyed the post and pics quite interesting and seeing the goats in the tree heheh!
Have a billygoattastic week Ronda 🙂
Loving those goats, good to see they have plenty to eat.
You weren’t offered goat for dinner?
LOL – The goats are in the trees outside of the town. The riad only had bunnies and chickens – and they really would have slaughtered one for us if we wanted it for dinner.
Interesting story and photographs! The goats eat the pulp of Argan fruit and spit the seeds. The spat seeds are collected to extract oil. The poop story has been created to make it sound exotic.
I’ve never seen a goat in a tree… nor would I want to pick my dinner from a pen in the yard.
lol. I love me my Argan oil. 🙂