Bedouin woman turns camel milk into thriving beauty business

An Israeli Beduin woman runs a successful business making beauty products from camel milk, attracting thousands of tourists to her facility in the Negev.

Camel in the desert (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Camel in the desert
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Mariam Abo-Rkeek is an Israeli Arab woman living in the desert in the south of Israel. She uses camel milk and other natural ingredients found in the desert to make beauty products.
Her range of products, called "Desert Daughter", is now a thriving business, with increasing use of camel milk.
Abo-Rkeek says camel milk offers many benefits: "Camel milk is really good for the human body. It combats redness and balances the skin. The skin gets the nutrients it requires. So, it has a lots of advantages. Certainly, it's also good when someone has illnesses like diabetes. When it comes to fighting skin problems or illnesses, camel milk is better than other milk," she said.
The products are made of natural ingredients such as desert melon, black cumin and bitter apple, and the herbs she uses are mostly locally sourced from her Beduin village of Tel Sheva.
Like many other Beduin women of her generation, Mariam Abo-Rkeek was born in a tent and raised within Beduin traditions and lifestyle.
She studied marketing in London, where she admired the fancy branded beauty products. But when her skin turned dry and flaky, she turned to her grandmother's homemade products, such as soap made from camel milk. And her skin problems cleared.
Abo-Rkeek learnt her trade secrets from her grandmother, making healing products and medicine from plants. She uses essential oils to give the soaps and lotions a fragrance.
"Everything I sell here started with a small shop I established about 10 years ago. All the knowledge I learned from my grandmother because we had the plants, herbs and we also got the camel milk near our home. From them we produce the soap, the creams or other things for the skin," she said.
In the space that was once an animal shed, there is now a laboratory, a storage house for raw materials, a kitchen, a storefront, a lecture room and a welcome area for visitors who come to learn more about Beduin healing and her products.
Abo-Rkeek employs five other Beduin women in her company, which also conducts seminars on traditional Beduin herbs.
She gets the camel milk from local farmers and friends, as it's not easy to get the milk, because a camel has to smell its newborn baby to produce milk.
Abo-Rkeek's business is popular four tourists. She says thousands of tourists visit her every year. They are invited to try their hand at making the handmade products, and get a chance to know Beduin food and hospitality. She now wants to expand her business abroad through her new online shop.