The history of Argan oil cannot be discussed without a thorough understanding on the history of the Berber people. While the Berbers are dispersed throughout all of North Africa, more of them live in Morocco than any other country. 10.4 million Berbers currently live in Morocco making up 40% of the country’s population. There are three main groups of Berbers but one that we will focus on to get a better understanding of Argan oil and the Berber’s relationship with that commodity. The Tuareg people are known throughout the world as the “People of the Desert”. The Chaouias are dispersed through Northern-Africa and live semi-nomadically. Then the group of Berbers which we derive the most knowledge of ancient argan oil; are the Kabyles, a sedentary sub-group of the Berbers.
The Kabyles are a “closed society” that runs on a subsistence economy. A subsistence economy does not use monetary exchange but rather relies on natural resources for basic needs by gathering, subsistence agriculture, and hunting. The Kabyles originally had no motivation to import foreign goods as they were self sustaining. Private property did not exist as everything they owned belonged to the whole family. The Kabyles had a deep relationship with the natural environment and implemented a holistic approach towards their health and survival. They did not use calendars or clocks so their rituals such as planting and harvesting corresponded to natural cycles. History dates the Berbers back to 3000 BC which is over five thousand years ago. This marks them as one of the most ancient tribes of people on Earth.
Until recent years the Berbers didn’t have a set of script characters. Other than a few old carvings of images on the walls of caves, customs and values have been passed on through the Berber’s dialect. The only way that culture was passed down through the generations is orally by the elders. Since the teachings of the Elders could not be found in traditional books, word of mouth is how the Berber’s holistic approaches spread the world. Since the Berber’s were completely self sustaining before modern technology different people from all around the world came into contact with the indigenous people of southern Morocco for different reasons. At certain times the Berbers were world powers, which meant loads of war. There was the Great Berber Revolt (739-743 AD). During the Great Berber Revolt, Handhala ibn Safwan defeated the great Berber army of Abd al-Wahid ibn Yazid in May of 742 AD. Well over 100,000 Berbers died in the Great Berber Revolt.
All of these wars did one thing and that was popularize their name all across the world. Even though the Berbers became known for being really tough and having a very powerful army, there was one thing that the Berber’s enemies were writing home about; the Berber women. A sort of folklore began to spread beginning in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but especially in recent years with technological advances all around the world. It wasn’t just one trait that the Berber women obtained, but more so an all around beauty. Their skin, hair, tattoos, and clothing attire set trends all over the world. The beauty product that the Berber women have been using for thousands of years was Argan oil, and this is precisely how Argan oil came to be known and esteemed as it is today. Year after year the word of the Berber women spread throughout the world and over time awareness of Argan oil grew as that was the one cultural beauty product used by the Berbers that the rest of the world didn’t have access to. The Argan trees are very important historically to the Berbers. Over the generations the Berbers passed on knowledge of the Argan tree and cultivating its fruits. Not long after the Berbers formed in North Africa, Argan oil became one of their most prized trading and bargaining chips with outside people. Step by step, war by war, Argan oil slowly grew into the massive industry that exists today. Economists estimate that by 2022 the Argan oil industry will hit $1.79 billion USD (United States Dollars) a year. The Berbers have came a long way in fifty centuries.