Going to Essaouira is another long trip away from Marrakesh, but not quite as long as the ten hour trip to the desert. This one only takes a couple of hours.
What is interesting about the road to Essaouira is that it looks more like its going to the desert that actually going to the coast. The panorama from either side of the road is quite flat with just the occasional house to spot the view. In other words, it can get boring. However, as you near the coast, the houses begin to transition from the typical clayish red abodes to the white and blue of the sea similar to the kinds of homes one can see in a Greek island. One guidebook says, if you start seeing the blue and white houses then you have come to the area of Essaouira. Another sign is when the road becomes hilly and spattered with Argan trees.
We had a short stop in a female cooperative about 45 minutes away from Essaouira. We were initially welcomed by a cute dog on top of the wall. Afterwards, we were greeted by two cooperative members. One was able to speak Spanish, who entertained our Colombian friend. The other one spoke English who in turn gave the tour to the rest of the group.
They explained what argan was and what are the products that can be made with it. Argan is similar to an almond nut with a shell that is hard to crack. Women in the cooperative would try to extract oil from the argan nut by crushing it with a grinding machine. To extract a kilo of oil would require six days work! We saw the actual hand-cranked grinder they used for the argan. It was clear that it took a lot of effort and muscle power to get the job done. The remaining paste were utilized for other beauty products and food products.
The show room for the argan products was quite quaint. The floor was littered with argan shells, quite similar to pistachio shells. It added to the spice of the place. The shelves were neatly lined with various argan products, most in beautifully designed packaging.
Our guide showed us the different uses of argan. They were able to make oil which can be used for salads. It can also be used to make a sweet paste similar to peanut butter. It was sooooo good especially with bread. We were able to sample both the oil and the peanut butter.
They also showed us various beauty products they were able to make with the oil. There were soaps, facial moisturizer and lotions. The prices ranged from 100 dirhams up. It is a bit more expensive than regular beauty products but we had to remember how much effort it took for the women to make it. At the same time, it is for the good cause of providing women in the community livelihood.
There were other products being sold as well, including slippers, bags and cloths. It was their argan products that they consider to be their primary product though.
My friends and I had a wonderful time looking through the stuff they were selling. Three of us bought something. I wanted to get a small bottle of argan oil and peanut butter, but I was running low on my budget unfortunately.
This was actually a stop we really enjoyed. Being students of social development, it was fascinating to see actual development work taking place even if we were on vacation. :)