Musings on Morocco

Every day I post a Moroccan proverb on Twitter and on our Facebook page.  Some of them are easy to resonate with.   Others are a little ridiculous.  A few are incomprehensible.  These proverbs seem to be quite representative of the country where our Argan Oil is made – the place where Saadia lives.

Visiting Morocco for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for some.  There are things that are easier for foreigners to resonate with.  But other things are surprising, and even ridiculous, to try to understand.  Some things will be utterly incomprehensible.

When in Morocco I find it very easy to resonate with the beauty.  The colour, the gorgeous riads (traditional houses) and the never ending beaches on the coast.

Then there is the surprising.  Entering any medina in any city or town will leave you confused.  There is no rhyme or reason to any of them.  Their ridiculous maze-like streets and lanes are beyond even the most skilled map maker’s abilities.  Just when you think you are on the right track, you hit a dead end.

Then there is the incomprehensible.  When walking through the medina of the capital city of Rabat, I was shocked to see a man with a table set up in the street where many butchers were selling their meat.  The man with the table had a very special kind of meat for sale.  He only sold….


Cow feet, sheep feet, goat feet.  I was appalled.  And intrigued.  I asked my husband what people would do with these various animal feet and he said he didn’t know.  I was very unsatisfied with this answer, so I asked again.  “No really.  Why would people buy FEET?”  His answer?

“To make feet tagine.”

Aah, tagine.  The Moroccan answer to both lunch and dinner six days a week.

I discovered an old saying while planning my first trip to Morocco in 2002.  It quickly became one of my favourite things ever written and I’m not even really sure why.

You tell me you are going to Fez. Now, if you say you are going to Fez, that means you are not going. But I happen to know that you are going to Fez. Why have you lied to me, you who are my friend?

Try to wrap your mind around that one!

Or on second thought – don’t try.  Morocco is a fascinating place.  But it is a country that I think is best left unanalyzed.  Just take it for what it is.  Enjoy and adore what is beautiful.  Laugh at what is ridiculous and incomprehensible.  And appreciate that you are somewhere very special and unique.

xo, joèl~

P.S. Fez is an amazing city in northern Morocco. I spent 5 days there on my first trip. Strangely enough, my Moroccan husband hasn’t been there yet! It’s really worth seeing, though. You just have to get really lucky and meet some great people to show you around the city like I did! The medina in Fez is absolutely impossible and wonderful all at once.


P.P.S.  For more Musings on Morocco, visit our brand new blog:  — travel tips, cultural tidbits, photos and more.


A Conversation at Saadia’s House

Our family went to Morocco in March.  This is when I received our first batch of hand-pressed Argan Oil from my mother in law, Saadia.

I was so excited to start using it and importing it that I wanted to know more about Argan Oil right from the source.

In my last post I mentioned that my husband, Greg, had often tried to get me interested in Argan Oil.  But now that I was interested, he seemed to tune out a little.  Actually, he tuned out a LOT.  As is clear from this snap shot of a conversation at his mother’s house.

A Conversation at Saadia’s House:    “Men Just Don’t Get It”

Joèl:   Greg, ask the ladies how they use Argan Oil.

Greg, bored:  You just use it on your face and in your hair and on your nails.

Joèl:  Well I know THAT.  There has got to be more.  Ask them!  Please.

Greg, in Derija:  Blah blah blah blah blah.

The Ladies, in Derija, all at once:  Blah!  Blah blah blah!  Blah!  Blah blaaah blah blaaaaah blah blah!   Blah!  Blah blah blah!  Blah!  Blah blaaah blah blaaaaah blah blah!

Joèl:  What did they say?

Greg:  They said you use it on your skin, hair and nails.

Joèl, disappointed:  That’s all?  What does it do to your face?

(The Ladies commissurate)

Greg:  Ok.  So it’s good if your skin is feeling dry like old snake skin.  It’s also good if you have zits.  Even if you have lots of zits they will go away.  It fixes many skin problems and it’s great after going to the hammam.  They said that they don’t like to put it on right before going out in the sun because they are afraid their faces will fry like a fish.  So to be careful of that.  It also closes the holes on your face.

Joèl:  Holes?  What holes?

Greg:  These ones (pointing to Joèl’s pores).

Joèl, slightly annoyed but pleased to be getting some info:  Really?  Cool.  What else?

Greg:  It’s great if you are in pain and feeling old and aching everywhere.  It’s good for massage for rheumatism and whatever else is making you miserable.

Joèl:  How about hair?

(The Ladies commissurate yet again)

Greg:  They use it on wet hair and dry hair.  It works good.  Makes it soft and beautiful and gorgeous.

Joèl:  Does it make your hair look greasy if you use too much?

Greg looks over at all of the women present with their hair completely covered with brightly coloured scarves.  Then he glares at Joèl.

Joèl:  Sorry.  I guess you wouldn’t know.  What else?

Greg asks.  The Ladies chatter away.

Greg, really bored and distracted:  It’s good for cooking babies.

Joèl:  FOR COOKING BABIES?  They don’t eat babies!  No one eats babies!  Tell them you just told me it’s for cooking babies!

Greg translates, the Ladies gasp.

Greg:  Sorry.  They use it for cooking for babies.

Joèl:  Really?  For making baby food?

Greg attempts to clarify yet again.

One Auntie makes eye contact with Joèl and points in the general direction of her nether regions.

Joèl:  Does she mean diaper rash?

Greg:  YES!  They said it’s good FOR babies.  They don’t have to worry about diaper rash when they use Argan Oil.

Saadia then makes a motion with her hands as if to show a big pregnant belly.

reg:  Ladies also use it on their bellies.  Lots of it.  They don’t want to get those purple tiger stripes that some women get when they are pregnant.  Mom says that some Moroccan women get very big bellies while their babies are growing.

Joèl:  Canadian women, too.  You can tell them that.

Greg translates.  The Ladies smile broadly and nod.  Pleased to share this in common with women far away on the other side of the world.

Joèl, victorious:  See Greg!  There’s more to it than “just put it on your face, hair and nails”!

Men certainly don’t get it.   At least mine didn’t that day.  😉


How I Fell in Love with Argan Oil

I had been to Morocco a half dozen times and I didn’t give this Argan Oil stuff a second thought.  I’d even visited a nice little co-op just outside Essaouira.  I’d heard my Moroccan husband telling me about this ‘fabulous stuff that’s only made in Morocco’.  I couldn’t have cared less.  Then I saw different products popping up here at home containing a bit of Argan Oil.  And I STILL didn’t pay much attention.

Then during an eyelid-related crisis a year ago I finally got curious.  My 35 year old eyelids aged 20 years.  They were bright pink and burned.  Nothing helped except 2.5% hydrocortisone cream which can thin the skin terribly.  I was beyond desperate.  Then I moaned to my husband and he grabbed some Argan Oil (for cooking!) from our kitchen cupboard.  First, it smelled divine.  I wanted to drizzle it on a salad.  Second, it felt *amazing*.  The pain was gone.  Then I asked him to ask his mother to buy me a teeny bit of raw, cosmetic grade Argan Oil.

And she flat out refused.

Instead, she offered to make me some with her own two hands.  She knows how hard it is to find quality Argan Oil — even in Morocco!

I had known this lovely woman for 8 years and I didn’t know that she had this amazing skill.  (And I’m embarrassed to admit I wouldn’t have cared all that much before last winter.)  In March we went to visit and I went home with a few litres of this amazing stuff.

And now?  I’m hooked.  I put it on my face, neck, and chest twice a day.  I use it on my hands and feet.  And I can’t imagine what my hair would be like without it.  Vancouver is not kind to a girl’s hair.  But my Argan Oil keeps any frizz at bay and makes it so soft and shiny.

I also love it for my four year old daughter.  She asks for it on her face.  On her scrapes.  On her mosquito bites.  On her little feet.  She even gets a bit in her hair now and then.  She believes there is nothing that it can’t fix.

As for my poor husband.  Once in a while he has a complaint and asks where our bottle of Argan Oil is.  But I’ll be honest.  I’m stingy with this stuff.  The very same stuff he couldn’t have paid me to pay attention to for the majority of the last decade.  Now I hide it.  I horde it.  I’d hate for even one drop to be wasted.

I have tried and bought countless different beauty products.  Some have given me decent results.  But I’m now at the point where I don’t like to use stuff on our skin that has a list of ingredients a mile long.  Containing words that remind me of Organic Chemistry class in my second year of University.  I remember that lab.  I wouldn’t want any of that stuff we messed with on my face.  But this?  I can pronounce it.  I know exactly what’s in it.  I know who made it.  I know I can trust it.  And I know I’ll get the results I’m looking for.

Have you tried authentic, raw Argan Oil yet?  What results have you enjoyed?