Often on an organised tour there will be one or two stops that you don't really think fit in, and are probably there to pad it out or provide extra retail opportunities. This one was similar, but turned out to be fairly interesting and reviewable.
We were taken into a series of Berber buildings and given samples of an oil known as Argan Oil which is made by hand locally and then bottled and sold to tourists (as well as being done so more commercially and exported world wide. The health benefits included eating, wearing and moisturising with the product and it had been used as the base product for all kinds of oil based products. It only does everything!
As I don't need another moisturiser in my life at the moment, and having been tempted with the lovely fresh Moroccan bread and oil dips I decided to pick up a small bottle to take home. This worked out fairly expensive, but as the museum/experience was 'free' (well included in the tour) I didn't mind so much.
Here we see the Argan nuts (which only grow in this part of the world) and a giant grind stone apparatus which is clearly only for show. There were ladies out the front grinding the nuts by hand which seemed to produce a reasonable amount, but I'm betting the process is a little more industrialised than they let on.
These bottles for example are definitely factory sealed and the labels are far too uniform for hand application... I know - I'm ruining the magic again, but I'm happy to subsidise small cottage industries and have no problems with those industries both scaling up to cope with demand (turns out this is a massive thing in the health and beauty sector now) and keeping a small front to show us tourists on our little bus.
Here we see our ingredients for a thai veggie curry, minus the Quorn pieces that had already be can frying in the Argan oil. The produce itself is much like sesame seed oil in that it's a strong scent that is really, really pleasant to cook with. You want your guests to feel hungry just by heating oil then this is for you! With a drop of balsamic as a dip this is really quite luxurious as the oil has a much stronger natural nutty flavour than say vegetable oil or sunflower which are notable for their ability to not impact on general flavour.
I tried flavouring some other sides such as noodles and rice with it as I would with my weapons grade Japanese sesame seed oil but it just didn't work so well. This is best with breads and to give a nice nutty undertone to fried foods.
We will certainly enjoy our little bottle and then keep it as a souvenir, but I can't see this being a regular ingredient to buy. If you end up in the foot of the Atlas mountains in Morocco then I do recomend looking out for some to try - especially if it's in a restaurant and you get to meet the great Berber people that originated it's use.