Goats in Trees: A Tale of Argan Oil in Morocco

One of my favorite memories of Morocco comes from seeing goats standing on the branches of argan trees, munching happily away. The argan trees grow in southwestern Morocco. In 2013, I saw them along the route from the coastal city of Agadir to Marrakesh. In 2015, I saw them along the road from Marrakesh to Essaouira.

The goats have developed the ability to climb up into the argan trees in order to eat the fruit. These trees can grow up to 30 feet (about 10 meters) tall, and the goats will climb as high as it takes in their quest for a tasty morsel. According to an article published in Small Ruminant Research in July 2007, the goats spend over 6 hours per day on an average up in the trees.

The fruits of the argan tree consist of a fleshy pulp that contains a hard seed at the core. The goats eat the entire fruit, but are not able to digest the central nut. The nuts pass through their digestive tracts, coming out in the poop. People recover the nuts from the goat droppings, and process the kernels to produce the argan oil that is so popular in hair care products and cooking.

Goats pass time in an argan tree along the road from Marrakech to Essaouira. Photo copyright 2015 by Jewel. All rights reserved.

In 2013, a tour bus taking us from Agadir to Marrakech drove through some countryside with argan forests, and the driver pointed out the goats as we passed by. However, to my disappointment he didn’t stop for us to linger, look at them, and take photos.

When I was enjoying Marrakech with 3 friends in 2015, we were looking at options for tours, and found one offering a day trip to the coastal town of Essaouira.  The tour’s description promised not only the sights to see in Essaouira itself, but also an opportunity to see goats in trees along the route there.

The van picked us up at the meeting place, and we were on our way. It was a long drive in a cramped vehicle, so it was a welcome relief when it pulled over to the side of the road to let us out and see the goats.  I realized that the tour organizers had arranged in advance with local farmers to herd their goats up into the tree just so we’d be sure of having some to see. Of course, it was suggested that we tip the herders….  I was happy to tip them.  I was excited to finally be up close and personal with the goats!

African Sunrises and Sunsets

Traveling offers many opportunities to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  In this blog post, I’d like to share my photos taken in Egypt, Morocco, and Senegal.  These are all my original photos, and my property.  Please do not steal them.

Sunrises and Sunsets in Egypt

I have traveled to Egypt 12 times, so naturally I’ve had many opportunities over the years to photograph sunrises and sunsets there.  Here are my favorites.

At the Pyramids of Giza Near Cairo, Egypt

Any post celebrating sunsets in Egypt clearly needs to start with the sun setting behind the Pyramids of Giza!

This sunset photo was taken in February, 2017 when I went to Egypt as part of Sahra Kent’s “Journey Through Egypt 3” tour.  We stayed at the Sphinx Guest House, which is a bed & breakfast place in Giza, Egypt (near Cairo).  This was the view from our window! If you look closely, you can see the Sphinx in front of the middle pyramid.

Sunset over the Pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the pyramids of Giza, Egypt on February 6, 2017. Look closely, and you’ll see the Sphinx hiding in front of the middle pyramid!

And because I love Egypt and its pyramids so much, here’s a sunset photo I took in February 2016.  This year, too, I accompanied Sahra’s “Journey Through Egypt” tour, and I took this photo from my room at the Sphinx Guest House.

Sunset over the pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the pyramids of Giza, Egypt on February 10, 2016.

I caught the sunset at a different point in February, 2015.  This year was the first time I accompanied Sahra on her “Journey Through Egypt” tour, but it wasn’t my first time in Egypt. This photo offers more light, and therefore a clearer view of the Sphinx.

Sunset over the Pyramids of Giza
The sun sets behind the Pyramids and Sphinx in February, 2015.

One of my favorite photos that I have taken in my travels is one of the moon rising over the Great Pyramid. I sat with friends in the garden cafe at the Mena House hotel, and this was our view.  I had accompanied my friend Morocco to the Ahlan Wa Sahlan festival, which was held at Mena House.

Moonrise over the Great Pyramid
The moon rises over the Great Pyramid in June, 2004.

The Overnight Train from Cairo to Luxor

It’s about 400 miles from Cairo, Egypt to Luxor.  An affordable way to make the trip is via an overnight train with sleeper cars.  The train leaves Cairo late in the afternoon, which allows an opportunity to watch the sun set while you’re making the journey.  I took this photo in February, 2016.

I saw this sunset on the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor, Egypt in February 14, 2016.

At Lake Nasser, at the Abu Simbel Temple in Southern Egypt

Twice a year, on February 22 and October 22, the rays of the rising sun pierce the inner chamber of the Temple of Ramses at Abu Simbel, Egypt.  On this date, the light shines on Amun-Ra of Karnak, Ra-Horakhti of Heliopolis and Ramses II, but the fourth god in the sanctuary, Ptah of Memphis, remains always in shadow.  I was there for this event on February 22, 2015, when I accompanied Sahra Kent on her “Journey Through Egypt” tour.

False Dawn Over Lake Nasser Just before Sunrise at Abu Simbel
The glow of false dawn appears just before sunrise over Lake Nasser at Abu Simbel, Egypt on February 22, 2015.
Sunrise over Lake Nasser at Abu Simbel
The sun rises over Lake Nasser at the Abu Simbel temple in southern Egypt on February 22, 2015.

The Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria, Egypt

These photos are from my visit to Alexandria, Egypt in June, 2008. My friend Saqra and I went to a family-oriented beach one beautiful afternoon.  Alexandria is a popular place for families from Cairo to spend vacation time during the summer, due to the fact that the sea air gives it cooler temperatures than Cairo. We stayed to watch the sun set, then went to the theater at the Alexandria Library to watch the show titled “The World Dances with Mahmoud Reda”.

Sunset over the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria
The sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria Egypt on June 30, 2008.

Later in the sunset, as the light begins to fade, the sky remains beautiful and the sea takes on a range of colors.

Sunset in Essaouira, Morocco

Essaouira is a seaside community in Morocco, facing onto the Atlantic Ocean. It offers beautiful views of the ocean, and also of sunsets.  I was there for Funoon Dance Camp, which was organized by my friend Nawarra.

Sunset in Essaouira, Morocco
The sun sets over Essaouira, Morocco, on September 10, 2017.

 

Sunset over Essaouira, Morocco
The sun sets over Essaouira, Morocco on September 10, 2017.

Sunrises in Dakar, Senegal

These two photos were both taken at sunrise (approximately 7:30 a.m.) in November, 2017, from the Pullman Hotel in Dakar, Senegal.

Sunrise in Dakar, Senegal
The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean at Dakar, Senegal on November 1, 2017.

 

Sunrise in Dakar, Senegal
The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean at Dakar, Senegal on November 2, 2017.

In case you’re wondering why I was in Senegal for a month, I was there as part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps.   You can read more about that here: http://roaming-jewel.com/2017/10/17/ibmcsc/

Gratuitous Sunsets in My Own Community!

Although the primary theme of this post is African sunrises and sunsets, I can’t resist sharing some beautiful sunsets from my own neighborhood in Iowa City, Iowa.  After all, it’s my blog, and I can include non-African sunsets if I want to!

I don’t have to travel far to see beautiful sunsets.  These two photos were taken from my front door, looking across the street at my neighbors’ houses.

The sun sets over Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City, Iowa on July 6, 2014.
The sun sets over Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City, Iowa on July 15, 2016.
Sunset in Iowa City, Iowa November 2017
The sun sets over Hickory Hill Park in Iowa City, Iowa in November, 2017.

And this photo was taken about a half hour’s drive from our house, at Coralville Lake.

The sun sets over Coralville Lake on October 21, 2016.

The Day I Didn’t See Lisbon

On my way home from Morocco, the airline itinerary required me to spend an overnight layover in Lisbon, Portugal.  At first, I was frustrated at having to pay for a hotel and have the journey home take so much longer. But then I started thinking about it, and started to view it as a fun opportunity to explore a city I had never been to before.

The day I departed Marrakech for Lisbon got off to a rather painful start, with 2 hours of standing in lines at the Marrakech airport.  The line to check in for the flight, the line to go through passport control, and the line to go through security all added up to that. My back was really hurting from all that standing. It was a relief to collapse into my seat once I boarded the plane.

Upon arrival at the Lisbon airport, there was another hour of standing in line, thanks to passport control and the taxi stand.

When I reached my prepaid hotel, the reception agent told me that plumbing issues had flooded several rooms at the hotel, and therefore they were not able to assign me a room. They had re-booked me into another hotel, at no cost to me, and they provided me with transportation to the new hotel.

There were check-in delays at the replacement hotel while the front desk staff tried to tell me to go back to the original one.  Eventually, the manager appeared, acknowledged that they had agreed to host me, and all was solved.  However, in the process, I endured another 30 minutes of standing around hotel check-in desks.

By the time all this was resolved, I was exhausted.  My back was really hurting, and I was tired. It was only 2:00 in the afternoon, but the only thing I wanted to do was sleep.  A voice in my head said I “should” go out and explore Lisbon, because who knows, I might never again have such an opportunity. A different voice in my head responded that sightseeing is supposed to be fun, and in this case I was in too much physical pain to enjoy it.

I knew I had a 23-hour trek home the next day, crossing an ocean and half a continent, with more grueling hours standing in line at airports, so why not take advantage of a nice hotel room to get some much-needed rest? And that’s what I did. I closed the curtains, and crawled into bed. When I woke up 2 hours later feeling better, I knew I’d made the right decision.

I walked across the street to have dinner at a nearby restaurant. I ordered a sea bass entree, which sounded very appealing. I was a bit dismayed when it showed up with the head still on it.  But it smelled delicious, so I tried not to think too much about the head and proceeded to eat the fish, leaving the head behind. It was a simple meal, which is what I needed at the time, and tasty.

Enjoying a fish dinner at the restaurant across the street from my hotel in Lisbon, Portugal. September 13, 2017.

After dinner, I returned to my room, did some reading, and reorganized my packing for the next day’s flight home. I made it to bed early, and slept well. Very well.

So, I have been “in” Lisbon, but all I saw was the inside of the airport, two hotels, a restaurant, and the view out of a car window going between these places.  But… I started my 23-hour trip the next day feeling reasonably well rested and pain-free.  For me, it was worth the tradeoff.

Sometimes, when traveling, self-care is more important than sightseeing.

Not Easy Traveling to Morocco from U.S.!

It’s not easy traveling from the U.S. to Morocco, especially if you live in an area where the closest airport is NOT a major hub!  I was in transit 26 hours, on 4 different airplanes, with long layovers.  I was exhausted when I finally arrived in Marrakech!  I flew from Cedar Rapids Iowa, to Chicago O’Hare, to Washington DC Dulles, to Lisbon Portugal, to Marrakech Morocco.

When I finally arrived in Marrakech, I bought a local sim card at the airport for my spare phone so I could call home affordably.  It cost me 300 Moroccan dirhams (about $36) for 4 hours of international calls and 10 gigabytes of data. I felt that was a really good price!

A driver from my riad (bed & breakfast) picked me up at the airport. The friendly riad  owner wanted to welcome me, and offered me lovely Moroccan mint tea with petite cookies.  That was nice, but… she was French, and spoke very little English.  I do speak French, but I was  very exhausted from traveling so many hours. Therefore, my brain was mush, and I had trouble carrying on the conversation!  Finally, after finishing my tea and cookies, I fled to my room so I could nap.

I had arranged to eat supper at the riad, so after a one-hour nap my alarm sounded and I went downstairs to eat.  The meal was delicious! It was chicken tagine, which is a Moroccan stew made with chicken and vegetables (carrot, zucchini, etc.)

After eating, I again retreated to my room and went to bed.  I slept 13 hours.  I guess I needed it!

Getting Ready to Go to Morocco!

On Saturday, I’ll be boarding the airplane for Morocco for 12 days!  My husband is not going with me. He’s staying home to entertain the cats and protect the house from burglars!

I’ll be flying into Marrakech and staying there a couple of nights, staying at a riad, which is sort of like a bed & breakfast. Then I’ll board a bus for Essaouira, which is where I’ll spend the rest of my visit.  It’s a beautiful, historic seaside city.

I took this photo on September 3, 2015, in Casablanca, Morocco. The musicians are a Gnawa band.

While in Morocco, I’ll be attending the Funoon Dance Camp which will offer classes in the dance styles of Morocco, Nubia, Cairo, Turkey, hula, and more.