A camel dairy in the desert

Tuesday 03 April 2007 19.03
Camel Cosmetics? - A camel dairy farmer in Mauritania hopes to market camel milk lotion in Europe - Photo credit: Kathy Beight
Camel Cosmetics? - A camel dairy farmer in Mauritania hopes to market camel milk lotion in Europe - Photo credit: Kathy Beight

Camels are not considered to be the best-looking animals in the kingdom, but their fatty milk is thought to be a great ingredient for beauty products.

Nancy Abeiderrahmane says vitamin-rich camel milk can cleanse the body both inside and out.

'It does give you a nice complexion,' says British-born Abeiderrahmane, who opened Africa's first commercial camel dairy Tiviski in 1989.

Today, the Spanish-trained engineer wants to make camel milk cosmetics.

'We would make creams and soaps,' said Abeiderrahmane, who has lived in Mauritania for 30 years and is a citizen of the former French colony.

'I'm thinking very upmarket,' she added.

Egypt's Cleopatra was said to bathe daily in camel's milk and Mauritanian Moorish women still traditionally drink large quantities of this milk to maintain a pale, clear complexion.

It takes two people to milk a standing camel, one holding the bowl on one side and the other tweaking the teats of the udder on the other side.

The milker allows the female camel's calf to start suckling, to draw down the milk, and then pushes it away.

Abeiderrahmane, while admitting camels can be smelly, indignantly denies they are dirty.

'The camel itself is a fussy animal... it has few germs, few diseases, it's a very clean animal,' she said.

Camel milk is topped by a thick white froth fresh from the udder.

It tastes less fatty and a bit saltier than cow milk and its chemical composition is very different.

The Tiviski dairy already produces a soft camel milk cheese called Caravane, although some fans have dubbed it 'Camelbert'.

Abeiderrahmane tried to sell it in European gourmet outlets, but quickly ran up against the European Union's barrage of animal health and food regulations.

Until she is able to get her camel milk cheese into the EU legally, her European fans will keep smuggling it inside their suitcases on the way home from Mauritania.