goats in tree moroccoEveryone has different reasons for traveling Morocco. Some are simply interested in touring the popular sites and cities like Casablanca or Rabat, places they’ve read about in their travel guides. They may make the rounds of the museums, historical landmarks, ancient ruins and bustling markets, or they may want to enjoy some of the local entertainment or experience the culture on different levels.

Still, others are attracted to the natural beauty of the country or a particular region. Those who wish to see the country’s flora and fauna to express their eco-tourist inclinations have plenty of options in Morocco.

You can start by appreciating the trees of this North African nation. It’s possible to find all sorts of trees that are common to most countries in the world but there are a handful of species indigenous to this land.

From one region to another, there are some distinctive trees that stand out. If you’re exploring the Atlantic coastal region, you might happen on vast swathes of cork oak. If your travels take you into the slopes of the Atlas Mountains, you will encounter a rich variety of evergreen, oak, cedar and pine forests. In the steppes region of Morocco, travelers can walk among the jujube trees (zufzuuf), mastic and lots of different shrubs. If you move along the wadis, you’ll find poplars, willows and variety of shrub or short tree called a tamarisk.

You’ll also find lots of olive groves scattered around Morocco. One of the unique trees of the country is the argan tree, a variety that produces oil. The hearty tree thrives in harsh environments, including the heat of the arid countryside and the poor soil of the Sous Valley in Morocco. The oil comes from the olive-like fruits the argan bears though it is larger and contains a nut from which the oil is produced … still using traditional methods.

Some have noted argan oil’s potential as a cooking ingredient but the production remains a underdeveloped cottage industry in the country. Many times the oil is made by individual families. Also, it is not uncommon to find goats climbing in the limbs of argan trees in order to feast on the succulent fruits.

There are also other distinct trees in Morocco, though some are limited to certain regions. There are the thuja trees, the Italian cypress, yew, date palm, red-berried mistletoe, the bridal broom and others.

One reason for the interest in Morocco’s trees is tied to a serious conflict between the people of Idikel Forest. The conflict is decades old but which gained some press recently. The plight of the impoverished inhabitants fighting for the right to harvest the valuable cedar wood from the forests and sell it, and the desire of conservationists to preserve the trees for the future is one with compelling arguments on both sides. It has drawn the attention of many people, some of whom have shown interest in seeing the cedar forests themselves.

Written by Shaun Kilgore.

Photo by globevisions.