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Argan Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Morocco


Argan, Practices and Know-how Concerning the Argan Tree was inscribed in 2014 on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Morocco.

Argan oil is undoubtedly one of the emblems of the Kingdom of Morocco, in the same way as the art of the carpet, mint tea or Tajine cooking.

The argan tree is an endemic woodland species found in the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve in south-west Morocco. Rural women and, to a lesser extent, men living in the reserve practise traditional methods to extract argan oil from the fruit of the tree. Different tasks, transmitted by means of imitation and through non-formal education, are required to obtain the oil, which has multiple uses for cooking, medicines and cosmetics. These include harvesting the fruit, drying, pulping, grinding, sorting, milling and mixing. The specific hand mill is manufactured by local craftspeople, and the mixing involves the gradual addition of warm water in exact quantities. All the cultural aspects of the argan tree, including the cultivation of the tree, oil extraction, the preparation of recipes and derived products, and the crafting of traditional tools for the various tasks, contribute to social cohesion, understanding between individuals and mutual respect between communities. Argan oil is given as a wedding gift and is used extensively in the preparation of festive dishes. Traditional know-how specific to the extraction of the oil and its multiple uses is systematically transmitted by ‘argan women’, who teach their daughters from a young age to put it into practice.


Its official name is Argania spinosa L., the word spinoza indicating the presence of thorns. Its name in the Berber language is simply Argan although it is known as theTree of Iron because of the characteristic hardness of its wood.

It is its fruit that gave it its reputation. According to tradition, this fruit, blessed by God, is harvested every September. It is in the form of an oval shell, rather like an almond or acorn. It contains a kernel which is dried and then heated over a fire, depending on the final product required. Indeed, the argan oil used in gastronomy is obtained with roasted fruit, whereas the cosmetic use of the final product requires an unroasted fruit. From this kernel an oil with multiple benefits is finally extracted.


Argan oil, a true gift from heaven that has been springing from the soils of Morocco for millions of years

The argan tree thus became the tree of all the Amazigh people of these regions of Morocco, including mainly the Souss territories around Agadir. Since prehistoric times, through antiquity, and up to the present day, the argan tree has served both humans and animals and has protected the soil from the forces of the ocean. Already the famous explorer Leon the African mentions in his 16th century accounts the use of argan oil for food and lighting.

But it is its medicinal virtues that have forged its international reputation.

The important presence of fatty acids and vitamin E endows argan oil with effective moisturizing and nourishing properties to prevent skin aging. It is also useful for treating eczema, acne, chicken pox and chapped skin, and does wonders for maintaining healthy hair. Finally, recent scientific studies have revealed the impact of the internal components of the kernel in the prevention of cardiovascular risks and the preventive treatment of prostate cance.


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