UAE camel milk goes global

For thousands of years in this region, camel’s milk has been regarded as almost an elixir of life, its health-giving properties known far and wide. One Dubai camel farm now thinks its time to spread the message even further and has plans for global expansion, as Noni Edwards reports.

The camel is a humble animal, but humans have been relying on these trusty “ships of the desert” – for survival, for as long as history has been recorded.

But now they’re serving a very different function, as the key component in one of the most recent types of food manufacturing operation to be developed.

The Camelicious dairy on the outskirts of Dubai, is the first dedicated and regulated camel milk factory to be built in the world.

There are around three thousand camels but to support their ambitious export plans, they’re going to double the size of the farm.

The farm’s manager, Dr Peter Nagy, says there is good reason for the rest of the world to know about camel milk.

“It could help in treating TB, tuberculosis, patients. Also there’s data showing that it can have antiviral effects against certain viruses.”

Even for everyday consumption he says it’s easier to drink than other milk. It has a different protein structure so people who are allergic to dairy from cows, sheep or goats can digest camel milk.

The benefits continue: he says the vitamin content is higher and all importantly, the natural fat content is lower.

In cafes around Dubai that have been testing out the camel milk retail concept, this group of Saudi women is rediscovering what their families have known for centuries.

Taghreed Turki, from Medina, said she doesn’t know why it’s fallen out of fashion.

“It was drunk by my grandfather and my ancestors and was the best drink for them but now it’s not very popular,” she said. “It’s healthy and is said to be a deterrent against cancer.”

Responses from all nationalities have been positive.

Judy Havard, from Adelaide in Australia was taken by complete surprise when asked about the taste.

“Beautiful, actually it’s a lovely cup of coffee and I didn’t even realise that it was camel milk,” she said.

Derek Turner, from Leicester in the UK said he thought it was interesting. “I thought it was sweet but not overpowering, refreshing and different in a nice way.

Roddy Fok-Shan, general manager of the Majlis al Nasseem Coffee Shops says his Asian customers are lapping it up.

“The Japanese and Chinese market, the Asian market has a big craze for the camel milk,” he explains. “One of our major customers for the camel milk chocolate is really the Asian market.”

Camel milk exports to Europe will begin later this month, after EU approval was granted in February, and after that? The sky’s the limit.

Originally broadcast on Emirates News, 2 April 2013
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