Morocco Travel Guide: Nice to Know in Morocco
Travelers going to Morocco will be amazed at the sights, sounds and scents of the country. Our Travel Guide Morocco will give you a brief insight into some of the things that make Morocco truly unique. One item that many travelers should bring home is Moroccan Argan oil. This has been called “liquid gold” because of its beautiful color as well as its number of beauty, health and cooking applications. When it comes to eating, travelers will get a taste of Tajine when they visit Morocco. To wash it down, travelers will also enjoy a cup of Moroccan mint tea.
Moroccan Argan Oil
The Italians and Greeks may have olive oil, but the Moroccans have Argan oil. Argan oil is a type of oil that grows from Argan trees that are unique to Morocco and is one of the rarest oils in the whole world. These trees grow only in Morocco because of the dry environmental conditions in the southern portion of the country that are favorable to the growth of the trees. At one time, it covered all over Northern Africa, although today, Morocco is the only country still blessed with fields planted with this tree.
These Argan trees are so unique. They are remnants of the Tertiary age that existed around 2.6 million years ago. The Argan trees in Morocco are already endangered and are now protected by UNESCO. They were first discovered in 1510 by Leo Africanus, a Moroccan explorer whose real name was Al Hassan Ibn Muhammad Al Wazzan.
Traditionally, the people of Morocco would pick out the pits of the Argan nut from the waste products of goats that ate the nuts and leaves of the tree. Once cleaned, the pits would be ground and pressed to extract the oil to be used for cosmetics and cooking. Today, mechanical presses are used in processing the nuts that have been directly harvested from the trees.
What makes Argan oil unique is the high level of squalene, tocopherols, fatty acids, phenolic acids, carotenes and phenols found in the oil. It is a rich source of Omega-6 and Omega-9, which are naturally powerful antioxidants that help protect the skin from free radical cell damage and degeneration.
This makes the oil a wonderful balm for a number of skin conditions, including providing relief for skin rashes, acne, skin redness and eczema, promoting the faster healing of wounds, moisturizing dry skin and hair and strengthening nails. Argan oil is also highly valued for preventing stretch marks, fading keloids and shrinking pores on the skin, relieving psoriasis and fighting skin ageing. It has been clinically studied to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, which is why it is one of the latest ingredients of a number of mainstream commercial beauty products today. It can also help stimulate hair growth. Patients suffering from rheumatism and arthritis have also reported relief after applying Argan oil directly on the skin.
It has also been found to be more resistant than olive oil when it comes to oxidation. This means that it has a longer shelf life without compromising the qualities of the oil.
Moroccans have a variety of applications for Argan oil. It is used for cooking, in much the same way that the Italians use olive oil in their cuisine. It is also consumed cold pressed as a dip for bread, or used as salad dressing. The locals also use Argan oil when making Amlou, which is a popular dip for bread.
For travelers who purchase Argan oil, you have the peace of mind in knowing that you are helping the women of Morocco. About three million Moroccans, especially the women of the Berber tribe who reside in the southern region of Morocco and have formed Fair Trade cooperatives, benefit from the Argan oil industry. These women’s cooperative has developed ways to make the industry sustainable, by replanting the area with Argan trees.
The people of Morocco love their spices and yet like to keep things simple. Tajines are stews that are cooked slowly in low temperatures, resulting in meat that is tender, aromatic and full of flavor.
The tajine also refers to the thick clay pot where the dish is cooked. It looks unique because unlike traditional pots, the tajine has a cone-shaped cover with a handle in the shape of a small knob. This allows the cooks to pick up the lid without having to use a rag or mitten when checking the food. The unique shape of the cover creates high temperatures while cooking, helping to tenderize the meat, infuse it with flavor, while at the same time retaining moisture. Travelers can purchase the tajine pot as a decorative souvenir or it can be used for actual cooking of a variety of tajine dishes.
The tajine pot was originally used by the nomads. These served as their portable ovens when cooking over charcoal for several hours. The pot is used in both cooking and serving the dish.
The dish often starts with a combination of meats, usually cuts of lamb and chicken. Fish, beef, quail, turkey and pigeon are also sometimes used, depending on the recipe. There is a braising liquid with a bit of fat wherein the meat is immersed and cooked slowly until it comes off the bone. Fruits and vegetables are added as well as a number of ingredients such as olives, raisins, apricots, apples, pears, prunes, dates, lentils, nuts or preserved or salted lemons. Some cooks also use honey. The meat is also flavored with a combination of delicious spices such as cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, saffron, paprika, cumin, pepper and ras el hanout, which is a Moroccan spice blend. Longer cooking times result in more intense flavors and more tender meat.
Some famous Moroccan tajine dishes are kefta, which is meatballs cooked with egg and a rich tomato sauce, and mshermel, which is chicken with citrus fruits and olives. There’s also the mrouzia, which combines lamb with raisins and almonds. These dishes are best served and eaten with some couscous, pita or bread.
Moroccan Mint Tea
The Kingdom of Morocco ranks as one of the top importers of tea in the world. This is because drinking tea is a way of life in the country. In fact, 1.4 kilos of green tea is consumed per capita in Morocco. Green tea is prepared and consumed alongside the meal, and often enjoyed throughout the day.
Drinking a glass of Moroccan mint tea is a refreshing way to beat the heat in the country. It is known as a hospitality drink in Morocco, so it’s common to see it as a welcome drink in a number of hotels and restaurants, as well as in private Moroccan homes. It is served all day long. Traditionally, three glasses of the tea are served, representing life, love and death.
It was in the 18th century when green tea first made its way on the shores of Morocco. Due to the flourishing trade between Europe and Maghreb, tea quickly spread across the country by the middle of the 19th century.
The green gunpowder tea imported by Morocco predominantly comes from China. In fact, Morocco is the largest importer of green tea from China, more than any other country in the world.
It is customary that in a home, it is the male head of the household that prepares the tea for his guests. This once again shows the special importance of the Moroccan culture when it comes to preparing and serving their tea. When served to guests, it is considered quite rude to refuse the drink.
Moroccan mint tea is prepared by boiling green tea leaves in a pot of water. Fresh pressed mint leaves are then added to the mixture and allowed to steep. It is sweetened with white sugar or honey. In some regions, pine nuts are added to give it an extra boost of flavor. In some instances, lemon verbena or louiza is added, lending the tea a distinctly lemony taste. To produce the unique foam top of the drink, the tea is poured at a certain height or distance away from the glass.
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