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The Orange, Emblem of the Souss Valley

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A leading regional agricultural export

Along the road which leads from Agadir to Taroudant, lush orange groves form a silent and lush guard of honour. Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains, the fertile Souss Valley offers an ideal climate for citrus fruits which have found here their own Garden of Eden. If oranges and clementines cover the shelves of local markets in abundance, they are also famous for their success overseas, especially in Europe, the leading importer of Moroccan oranges. Despite the Kingdom’s short history with the orange, this fruit, draped in the colours of the sun, and its «Maroc» stamped diamond, has become an ambassador abroad showcasing the natural resources of our country.

The 270 companies presented in this Original Atlas correspond to the results recorded end of April 2022, a tally which continues to increase with each weekly CRUI session.

In the last century

Native to Southeast Asia, the orange tree was introduced to Morocco less than a century ago. An article from July 1949, published in the review “Le Chasseur Français”, relates André Gaujard’s visionary observation (extract): “Morocco is a new country … Each year, hundreds of new acres are planted with citrus fruits (oranges, mandarins, clementines, lemons and pomelos).

But effort has focused especially on orange trees. For the 1947-1948 season, production for Morocco was 55,000 tonnes [..]

To conclude, let us say that citrus plantations in Morocco are certainly destined to a great future [and] intensive commerce will make it one of the finest riches of this country” (documentary,

Souss Massa, Citrus Champion

Agriculture, the flagship economic sector of the Souss Massa Region, gives pride of place to the production of citrus fruits. Due to its ideal conditions for their cultivation, the region is the leading territory in the Kingdom in terms of export volume.

Over the last few years, the sector has been massively boosted by localized irrigation to save water and improve production, by the introduction of new rootstocks, by the introduction of new varieties extending the harvest and export, and by the densification of plantations.

A careful selection

Only the most beautiful oranges will be exported. Serious conditioning prepares oranges and clementines for export. They are calibrated, washed, dried, waxed, and checked. They are then carefully stored in cardboard crates by skilled hands. A packing station looks like a huge beehive where everyone is focused on their specific task. The fascinating ballet of the machines, the sure gestures of the workers … Everything comes together in a fantastic choreography that nothing seems to be able to stop. On the way to their destiny, thousands of orange balls race on the conveyor belts, before taking place in alveoli where they will patiently wait to arrive at their destination. Special mention for the reusable plastic crates from the Scandinavian countries.

Star varieties

Discovered by Father Clément in Algeria in the 19th century, clementine, a small citrus fruit with a pronounced and tasty flavour, soon became popular all over the world. In the Souss Massa region, as in the whole country, the smaller citrus are by far the most exported and the most consumed, notably Clementines Nour and Nador Cott, but also the Ortanique (or tangor) and the Nova. In oranges, the preference is for Navel, Salustiana, Sanguine (aka Sanguinello or blood orange) and Maroc late orange. Each is cultivated in its own local climate and harvested at different times.

Anecdotes from here and elsewhere about oranges

Aristocratic ‘orangeries’

Considered a symbol of power in Europe, especially in France, the orange had long been a luxury fruit. To harvest in the winter this citrus fruit normally cultivated in warm regions, the nobility and aristocracy of the 17th century, under the reign of Louis XIV, had huge enclosed and heated buildings built with large windows for sunlight, in which the oranges, planted in tubs, were protected from frost during the winter. These greenhouses were called orangeries.

(Photo : The Orangery, Palace of Versailles)

The orangery (or orangerie) is not be confused with the French word ‘orangeraie’ or orange grove. These large buildings of the time, by their extravagance, represented the touch of exoticism which consolidated the power of the aristocratic class, as evidenced by the Orangerie of the palace of Versailles, or the Orangerie museum in Paris.

Orange in our lives

Symbol of celebration, sweetness, happiness, the orange is, in Morocco, intimately linked to all moments of life, both in the great feasts and in the simplicity of everyday life: slices of oranges with cinnamon, carrots or beetroot in orange juice, orange-shaped refreshment kiosks … The citizens of Morocco are indeed the first to benefit from the splendid citrus production of the country. But oranges please more than one sense: after having seduced China, India and the Mediterranean basin, orange blossom has become the signature fragrance of Morocco. Wedding halls and large hotels love to welcome their guests with this delicate scent, and orange blossom water also gives an unforgettable taste to gazelle horns and other traditional Moroccan pastries

Oranges abroad

In Europe, in the middle of the last century, an orange was so precious that to receive one at Christmas was a wonderful gift for young and old alike. Nothing was wasted. The orange would be slowly savoured while its peels, spread out on the hot stove, perfumed the house with its tangy scent … In Northern Europe December 6, Saint-Nicolas is a long-standing tradition in which children are offered oranges and gingerbread. The creation of the pomander, an orange studded with cloves used to clean the air and ward off insects and diseases, was inspired by the Crusaders returning from their expeditions to the East where aromatherapy was common. It is still very popular today in homes for its fragrance and decorative appearance.

Agadir’s marvellous week, 1958

“Crown Prince Moulay Hassan arrived aboard his personal plane late Friday morning.[..] He visited the Economic Exhibition of the new town’s Central Market and attended the parade of floats which was moved from the sea front promenade (or Corso) for this occasion. The Corso, with the parade of orange-themed floats, attracted many spectators who could taste the orange juice kept in cisterns inside the floats or served by traditional water carriers. The election of Miss Orange and the closing ball were very successful. A fireworks display closed Agadir’s marvellous week” (Journal Agadir 1958). “In 1959, the Orange Festival was just as beautiful with its characters dressed in orange, the city decked in full regalia, and the parades of floats at the Corso.” (

When oranges inspire art

Oranges were already inspiring poster artists in the 1950s. One of these old posters is called the North African Orange. It is the work of the Artist Roland Ansieau (1901-1987), known for his early 20th century art deco style. Assembled by the collector Abderrahman Slaoui, the old posters can be admired at the Abderrahman Slaoui Museum in Casablanca.

Reproductions are also available for sale, as is the book “The Orientalist Poster” published by Malika Editions, with more than 200 old posters on the Maghreb and the Arab-Muslim world.

The orange festival of Agadir

In 1958, Agadir held its own festival of Oranges. An extract from the account of this great initiative reads: ‘City and the Province authorities have decided to organize a great week of festivities, “Agadir’s marvellous week”, from April 27 to May 4, 1958. [..] Commissions worked on the development of the programme on the theme of “Orange the beautiful daughter of Souss” [so that] all products, each corporation, trade, industry, as well as the youth, sports, and magnificent folklore of this valley be represented and celebrated in a week of jubilation. [..] Three triumphal arches were set up on the boulevards, as well as magnificent lighting. [..] The most important event was the one planned in the Ouled Teïma for the festival of oranges.
(Journal Agadir 1958)

Source : Atlas Original 2021, page 78.
Read the article directly on the digital version of the book by clicking here.

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The Orange, Emblem of the Souss Valley - Atlas original