The unconventional beverage
Yemenis gulp up camel urine for health and beauty benefits, experts remain skeptical
Small shops selling plant-based oils are found throughout the micro-neighborhoods of Sana’a’s Old City. Bab Al-Hara has earned its fame as one of these shops, with a wide range of oil offerings from castor to almond. Much to the chagrin of animal rights’ activists, the shop is well-known for its production of sesame oil using a camel to power a mill. But, the people who crowd around the shop on a typical morning are not after the fruits of the camel’s labor, but rather its urine, bottled at the source in recycled containers. It’s a hot seller, says shop owner Saleem Al-Qarmani, and people come from all over to get it.
Bottled urine from the desert animal can be found throughout the Old City, with at least five shops selling the item for an average of YR300 ($1.40) per 750 ml. bottle
Rumored, but not scientifically proven, to offer health benefits for a number of ailments, Yemenis as well as those across Gulf have been consuming the animal urine for centuries.
“I drink a cup of camel urine every morning,” said 67-year-old Um Aziz, an Old City resident.
Many attribute the act of consuming animal urine for medicinal purposes to an interpretation of one of the Prophet Mohammed’s hadiths (narrations), in which he is believed to have directed followers to drink the liquid. Other historians believe the practice predates Islam, when desert nomads, who were know for their reliance on camel’s milk, likely also drank its urine.
Very little globally recognized research has emerged on the study of the benefits of camels’ urine. However, there are several online reports of researchers who advocate for the use of the animal by-product. According to an online report, The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia recently awarded Dr. Ahlam Al-Awadhi for her research using camel’s urine to treat skin diseases and scars, which has not be published.
However, other health experts argue that advertisements or advise from health professionals that link the urine to treatments for serious diseases is misleading and dangerous. Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Sanhani, a kidney specialist at the government-run Al-Jamhouri Hospital in Sana’a, says humans should not be drinking the substance because of the toxins it can contain. He told the Yemen Times that repeated consumption of the liquid could lead to kidney stones.
There are those who do not consume the urine but rave of its external use. Commonly, it is used as a beauty product for hair.
Taqia Hassan, a housewife in the Old City, said both her sons’ fiancees’ hair is now healthier after using camel’s urine on it in preparation for their weddings. She explained the application process.
“The hair is rubbed [with the urine] and then covered with a plastic bag for three hours. After this, it is washed.”
Hassn said the key is repetition.