Got (camel) milk?
By Andrea McVeigh
“We are on a mission; what is our mission?” said my tour guide, Asad.
“Mission impossible?” I volunteered.
“No, it’s not impossible, this is possible, just tricky. Let’s go,” Asad urged as we drew up outside Sharjah’s central souk. “Let’s find a camel.”
We didn’t need to find a camel, just a supermarket. We were on the hunt for camel milk.
Sharjah – one of the United Arab Emirates’ seven emirate states and a neighbour of Dubai – is a dry country which means the sale of alcohol is forbidden. Non-alcoholic cocktails are abundant, and very well-received in the dry Arabian heat, but I wanted to try something I couldn’t get at home. And camel milk wasn’t anything I could find in my local branch of Tesco.
Our mission had been joked about and talked about the previous day. It was proving more difficult than Asad expected. Sod’s law was proving that when you go to look for something you can’t actually find it. The first supermarket we tried only had deliveries of it twice a week, and the day we arrived wasn’t one of them.
Eventually though, Asad turned up at my hotel with two plastic bottles of Camelicious camel milk. And I don’t think he had to resort to milking a camel for them either.
It looked like milk, but this wasn’t like the semi-skimmed liquid I was used to. It’s less fatty than cow’s milk, so it’s popular among people with high cholesterol and on a health kick.
The lower fat content also gives it a taste and consistency a bit like skimmed milk, but with a strong aftertaste – not exactly bitter, but sharp.
I drank it, but I couldn’t get the image of camel udder out of my mind – not exactly the most pleasant of pictures. I drank, not so much with gusto, but out of politeness. So what does it taste like? Some say it’s mildly salty, but I didn’t get that, just a sharp aftertaste a bit like the stronger brands of soy milk.
I didn’t hate it, but I don’t know if I’d have it again. But if it’s good enough to have sustained the Bedouin nomads for thousands of years, who am I to start getting the, er, hump in a taste test?
So could it prove popular in Europe or America? Every few years the Press run stories that suggest it could be the newest superfood – high in potassium, iron and zinc as well as vitamins C and B, and low in cholesterol.
Camel milk chocolate is also being produced in the UAE. So move over Daisy – Humphrey the camel could soon be taking your place on supermarket shelves.
But why stop at chocolate? Camel milk ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies, yogurts, cheese and butter could all benefit from the Camelicious treatment.
Now who’s for a cuppa? One hump or two?