Shunned by youth, Morocco cosmetic oil craft faces uncertain future

A tourist buys a bottle of argan oil at a shop near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022. (AFP)
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A tourist buys a bottle of argan oil at a shop near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022. (AFP)
A tourist buys a bottle of argan oil at a shop near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022. (AFP)
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A tourist buys a bottle of argan oil at a shop near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 03 January 2023

Shunned by youth, Morocco cosmetic oil craft faces uncertain future

A tourist buys a bottle of argan oil at a shop near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022.
  • The fruits are then sorted, roasted, ground and pressed for their oil, which is used in cooking but has also long been famed for its moisturising and anti-aging properties for skin and hair

ESSAOUIRA, Morocco: Morocco’s argan oil is highly prized by the cosmetics industry, yet it is now mostly produced by elderly workers, raising questions about how long the artisanal practice can continue.
A dozen women, sitting on the floor of a workshop inland from Essaouira, a port town on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, work to deftly shell argan nuts, crush them and extract the oil.
It is a time-honored and labor-intensive craft, but one increasingly shunned by young people in the North African kingdom.
The women, mostly aged over 60, manually pulp the small yellow fruits at Cooperative Marjana, while others use hammers to crush the robust shells and remove the nuts.




Women squeeze oil out of a paste made from crushed Argan nuts, near Morocco's western Atlantic coastal city of Essaouira, on October 15, 2022. (AFP)

The fruits are then sorted, roasted, ground and pressed for their oil, which is used in cooking but has also long been famed for its moisturising and anti-aging properties for skin and hair.
“It’s difficult work and it requires experience and, most of all, patience,” said Samira Chari, who at 42 is Marjana’s youngest artisanal worker.

FASTFACT

Argan is so important to the region between the towns of Essaouira and Agadir that in 1998 UNESCO declared a biosphere reserve in the area and later added the tree’s cultivation to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Cooperative founder Amel El Hantatti says the job’s physical nature is one reason “young people aren’t taking up this craft anymore,” despite a lack of local employment.
The area’s otherwise arid landscape is home to vast argan orchards. Tourists stopping to see the production process and buy argan products are warmly welcomed by Marjana’s all-female staff.
Argan is so important to the region between the towns of Essaouira and Agadir that in 1998 UNESCO declared a biosphere reserve in the area and later added the tree’s cultivation to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Argan oil is the main source of revenue in this part of southern Morocco, where few other crops survive the low rainfall and searing summer heat.
It is also widely used in Moroccan cuisine and has been certified with an Appellation of Origin since 2010.
Hantatti founded the cooperative in 2005 and says it now employs 80 women, some working in production and others in sales.
But today, she says, “I really fear that the artisanal production of argan oil might disappear.”

The cooperative’s younger workers prefer to work in the gift shop, selling argan soap, shampoo and moisturiser.
One of them, Assia Chaker, 25, said: “I tried to work a few days with the craftswomen but I couldn’t carry on, it’s a hard process and really tiring.
“I like having contact with people and practicing other languages with tourists who come into the shop every day, instead of spending the whole day crushing and pulping argan nuts.
“Anyway, one day the job will be done by machines,” she added.
But Hantatti said the process is hard to mechanize, insisting that “oil extracted by machines will never have the same flavour as what the women produce.
“It contains all the positive vibes of these artisans, their laughter, the stories they share as they’re working. There’s a spiritual quality that makes it special and unique.”
The cooperative produces up to 1,000 liters (about 265 gallons) of oil a year and works with tour companies bringing groups of visitors as they pass through the popular coastal region.
Morocco produces around 5,640 tons of argan oil annually, according to official figures, around 40 percent of it for export.
The sector’s turnover tripled between 2012 and 2019 to reach around $115 million, according to the agriculture ministry.

But producers in Essaouira say the next generation has little interest in learning their craft.
“All I’ve known all my life is argan oil,” said Samira as she roasted nuts in a large clay oven. “For me, it’s as essential as oxygen and water.”
The divorcee did not have the opportunity of an education and works 10 hours a day to provide for her children.
Samira learned every stage of argan oil production from her parents, skills traditionally passed from generation to generation.
But she says her children have no desire to go into the industry — a choice she understands.
Yet, with a growing body of scientific research backing up its health claims, argan oil remains an important part of the local economy and a sought-after commodity worldwide.
Morocco’s government has also been paying more attention to the sector, notably by building 13 reservoirs to collect scant rainfall and help mitigate the region’s ever-worsening droughts.
Rabat aims to double argan oil production by 2030, hoping to support the emergence of a “new generation of the rural middle class.”
But with fewer and fewer young people taking up the craft, time will tell whether another generation will learn the traditions associated with the tree.

 


At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
Updated 07 February 2023

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake

At least 20 escape Syria prison holding Daesh inmates after quake
  • The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny

AZAZ: Prisoners mutinied in a northwestern Syria prison Monday following a deadly earthquake, with at least 20 escaping the jail holding mostly Daesh group members, a source at the facility told AFP.
The military police prison in the town of Rajo near the Turkish border holds about 2,000 inmates, with about 1,300 of them suspected to be Daesh fighters, said the source.
The prison also holds fighters from Kurdish-led forces.
“After the earthquake struck, Rajo was affected and inmates started to mutiny and took control of parts of the prison,” said the official at Rajo jail, which is controlled by pro-Turkish factions.
“About 20 prisoners fled... who are believed to be Daesh militants.”
The 7.8-magnitude quake — which was followed by dozens of aftershocks in the region — caused damage to the prison, with walls and doors cracking, the source added.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said it could not verify whether prisoners had escaped, but confirmed there was a mutiny.
At least 1,444 people died Monday across Syria after the devastating earthquake that had its epicenter in southwestern Turkiye, the government and rescuers said.
In rebel-held parts of the country’s northwest, at least 733 people were killed and more than 2,100 injured, according to the White Helmets rescue group.
The incident in Rajo comes on the heels of an Daesh attack in December on a security complex in their former de facto Syrian capital of Raqqa, which aimed to free fellow terrorists from a prison there.
Six members of the Kurdish-led security forces that control the area were killed in the foiled assault.
The conflict in Syria started in 2011 with the brutal repression of peaceful protests and escalated to pull in foreign powers and global jihadists.
Nearly half a million people have been killed, and the conflict has forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes, with many seeking refuge in Turkiye.

 


Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
Updated 07 February 2023

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister

Frenchman held in Iran starts new hunger strike: sister
  • Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime

PARIS: Benjamin Briere, a French national held in Iran, has gone on hunger strike for the second time since his incarceration in May 2020, his sister and his lawyer said Monday.
Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in jail for espionage, is one of seven French and more than two dozen foreign nationals who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.
Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, he had already gone on hunger strike once before, at the end of December 2021.
“It’s the only weapon he has,” his sister Blandine Briere said in a statement.
He stopped eating on January 28, she said.
Philippe Valent, Briere’s France-based lawyer, called the espionage charges against him “fiction” and his trial “a parody staged by the Revolutionary Guards,” the branch of the Iranian security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime.
Briere, the lawyer said, is “mentally and physically exhausted” in the “gloomy” prison which he said was known for frequent “extra-judicial executions” of inmates.
Majidreza Rahnavard, 23, the second of four people executed over the protests, was held in Mashhad and hanged in public in the city on December 12.
The conditions of Briere’s incarceration were “exceptionally harsh,” and he was being denied his rights, Valent said.
Iran needed to be held accountable for the danger to Briere’s “physical and mental wellbeing,” the lawyer said.
Another detainee in Iran, 64-year-old Franco-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan held since October 1, last month suspended a hunger strike that included refusing water, at the request of his family who feared for his life.
Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant was arrested while traveling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
Iran accuses him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he has denied.
 

 


Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
Updated 07 February 2023

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country

Jordan Gaming Lab hosts video game development events across the country
  • Participants in the two-day Global Game Jam were tasked with designing a video game based on a theme revealed during the opening ceremony

AMMAN: The Jordan Gaming Lab, a project developed by the King Abdullah II Fund for Development, hosted a free, video game development event at several locations across the country. The two-day Global Game Jam took place over the weekend at the lab’s branches in Amman, Zarqa and Aqaba.

The participants were tasked with creating a video game based on a theme that was revealed during the opening ceremony for the event. Sixteen games were produced and uploaded to the GGJ website.

The aim of the challenge was to provide participants with hands-on experience of working with advanced technologies, while taking advantage of help and advice from professional game designers from around the world.

The Jordan Gaming Lab was launched in 2011 to help boost the country’s video game industry and provide networking opportunities for those interested in being a part of it.

 


Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
Updated 07 February 2023

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027

Dubai aims for complete switch to eco-friendly taxis by 2027
  • By the end of the 5-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will comprise hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles
  • The plan is in line with the goal of the Roads and Transport Authority to ensure public transportation is emissions-free by 2050

DUBAI: Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has endorsed a plan to make all taxis in the emirate environmentally friendly by 2027.

Under the five-year plan, the entire taxi fleet will complete the switch to fully hybrid electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, the Emirates News Agency reported on Monday. This is in line with the authority’s goal of ensuring that public transportation is emissions-free by 2050. The RTA has already replaced 72 percent of Dubai taxis with hybrid vehicles.

“The results of experiments on eco-friendly vehicles, which RTA started trialing in 2008, confirmed the environmental benefits of reducing carbon emissions, fuel consumption and maintenance costs, as well as decreasing noise levels,” the authority’s director-general, Mattar Al-Tayer, said.

“Hybrid vehicles also have a longer lifespan compared with regular vehicles and cost less in the long run. They are characterized by lower purchase prices, maintenance fees, fuel expenses, insurance premiums, and other associated costs that potentially could be as low as 50 percent of regular vehicles.”

The initial phase of the plan, in which 50 percent of Dubai’s taxi fleet was converted to eco-friendly vehicles, succeeded in reducing carbon emissions by up to 420,000 tons a year, the Emirates News Agency said.

 


Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
Updated 06 February 2023

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets

Saudi authorities arrest four found in possession of more than 63,000 amphetamine tablets
  • Four have been referred to the Public Prosecution

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested four citizens found in possession of 63,443 amphetamine pills in the Eastern Region, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday. 

The pills had an estimated street value ranging from $630,000 to $1.8 million, according to figures published in the International Addiction Review journal.

The four have been referred to the Public Prosecution.