Set about two and a half hours from Marrakech, along the Mediterranean coast, Essaouira is a popular day trip from the Pink City. For fans of argan oil, though, the journey there is just as fun as the destination. “As you approach the whitewashed village, you will start to see the low, scrubby argan trees that are characteristic of the region from Essaouira to the south,” says L’Heureux. “You might even see goats climbing the trees to eat the fruit that surrounds the argan kernel.” To learn more about the oil and pick up a few bottles as souvenirs, stop into some of the cooperatives located along the way. “While many of the ones found along the main road are just for show and set-up for tourists, real, functioning facilities include Cooperative Marjana (Douar Aït Sraidi Lahrarta 44000, Ounara, Essaouira; +212-6-6906-3627) and Cooperative Al Amal (Blvd. Mohamed V, Tamanar; +212-6-6221-7851),” L’Heureux notes. She also offers some buying tips: “The oil should not smell like sesame oil, or feel greasy on the skin, but it should have a mild scent. If it has no odor, it means it was probably overly-processed, which destroys the nutritional value of the oil. You can purchase cosmetic grade oil, which is light and mild, or culinary oil, which tends to be darker as the nuts have been toasted before extracting the oil.”
On the road to Essaouira, you might see goats climbing argan trees to eat the fruit that surrounds the kernels.