Morocco has beautiful coastline, scorched mountains, tasty tajines and weather as warm as its people. In my short time exploring this vibrant country I was surprised time and again by all there was to experience. Trekking on a camel from hot desert to a lush oasis filled with hundreds of native flamingoes, seeing vendors in a souk drop everything at prayer time, the contrast of the gentle Atlantic ocean with the harsh aridity of the Atlas mountains.
But the biggest surprise Morocco had in store was a tree full of goats. At the crack of dawn in the Souss valley on our way to the mountains, the bus pulled over and the passengers were asked to alight. Having been awake since 4:30 that morning we were bleary-eyed and not quite awake yet, so the first reaction when we got off the bus was “are we dreaming?” But we weren’t dreaming, this was in fact a tree with about five or six goats perched among the branches and several more on the ground.
These nimble tree-climbing goats are a sight only to be found here. This is because the Argan trees they shimmy up are exclusively endemic to the south-west of Morocco so the phenomenon can be experienced nowhere else. The gnarly trunk of the Argan allows the goats to scramble up and chew on the leaves and fruit – a godsend in such a sparse, arid environment. The goats consume the flesh of the fruit but leave the nut, which is then collected and processed into a famous Moroccan delicacy – argan oil. Darwin would have a field day with this great example of specialization.
One thing we did wonder after marvelling at this mind-boggling sight – we never saw the goats actually climb up or descend a tree. The more cynical among you might think the Moroccans hoist the goats up there and laugh as we gullible tourists take photos. I’m sure that’s not true, though…