The Golden Potential of Honey: Another Excellent Strategic Adventure!

This blogpost is based on the field trip and report written by Ahmed Al Bloushi, Jasem Al Shehhi and Salem Al Yammahi, three of the first men to graduate from Zayed University.

I remember the first class I heard that some of my students actually go into the mountains and collect honey - following the bees trail from the water source to the hive - it sounded so exciting and really like a treasure hunt. I remember that feeling when I used to go "hunting" mushrooms (Pine and Chantrel)with my brother (yes, skipping school might have been involved). Then I heard that one bottle of honey can cost over 1,000 dhs and that it was used for medicine and not for toast - and I knew I had to learn more.

So, given the awesome students I am blessed to teach, I was given the opportunity to learn more about the ancient art/trade/vocation/industry that so many of my boys from Fujairah and RAK know so much about -

All photos in this report taken by Obaid Al Zaabi
They made contact with the well-known honey guru in Dibba - Mr. Ali Salem Al Dhanhani and they made arrangement to visit his home-museum and honey/bee preserve.

Mr. Ali
We arrived at his house and he showed us his museum devoted to honey and life in the mountains of Fujairah - to say I could have spent hours in it doesn't begin to describe how fascinating it was - I tried on palm frond socks (scratchy, but keep your feet warm in winter and protect them from rocks) - we all agreed that his collection deserves a museum of its own - hopefully one day as tourism and eco-tourism develop in Fujairah.

After a tea break with traditional bread - honey and liquified butter (yes, as delicious as it sounds) we went to the reserve. Mr. Ali told the students (in Arabic - they translated the important bits to me and wrote a great report) that he got the idea for creating a preserve in 1986 as urban development began to encroach on the traditional honey grounds - destroying the flowers, trees and grasses that bees need to make their honey. The land was allocated for the reserve in 1988 and is still protected today.

Egyptian bee going into hive
Now, there are hives and imported bees from Egypt (much bigger than Emirati bees) but there are also still the caves with hives on sticks of old times (with Emirati bees).

Egyptian bee

Honey from the boxed hives is still delicious (and not inexpensive as it is still local, and all hand collected in small batches) - I bought some of course and it has helped soothe my throat on many occasions.

The really expensive, rare and most precious honey comes from local bees, often from hives they have formed in caves.
Mr. Ali holding the "hive" in his hands & yes I held it too :)

We were so honoured that Mr. Ali shared his wisdom with us - and it got my students thinking about the local honey industry - and that it is based on trust - you need to know exactly where the honey comes from to spend 400 - 1000 dhs on a bottle! We talked about how this trust is formed and how and if the honey industry - which is at the moment a craft industry - should become something more formal. We also talked about eco-tourism and learning more about their own heritage.

First males to graduate from ZU, Mr. Ali and his friends in the mountains of Dibba, Fujairah

It was an amazing day - I held the hive in my hand (after a trek up the mountain in my long dress & getting caught in the bushes) - and we all learned so much. After, we went to one of the student's farm in Masafi and had a fish Mendi lunch (delicious) and I rode on an Arabian horse (all photos have been destroyed :) ).

Strategy in the UAE in action - it is all around us and we need to learn and study traditions and traditional industries to develop a theory for here - thank you boys - it was a wonderful experience and I will always remember it!

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