Page update - Sep 22, 2022
Camel milk is another popular and bright gift from the United Arab Emirates. In supermarkets in the UAE, you can buy not only the milk, but also yogurt, butter, cheese, and other products made from camel milk. Camel milk chocolate is extremely popular. The choice is wide, and we talk about the range and prices on this page.
The prices on this page were updated in September 2022.
Camels are the constant companions for desert dwellers. For thousands of years, the Bedouins have made cloth from camel wool, burned camel droppings as the only available fuel, ate the meat and drank the milk.
Camels are usually bred for milk and meat only in the regions where it is too expensive or simply impossible to keep cows, sheep, or goats. This is the case on the Arabian Peninsula, where camels have been bred for centuries.
However, in the 1990s, breeding camels for milk became popular not only in harsh desert conditions, but also in quite soft regions. The reason for the rapid growth of camel breeding was the increased demand for healthy food.
Camel milk contains more protein, less cholesterol, and is slightly more fatty than cow milk. The composition of nutrients is better: three times more vitamin C, 10 times more iron, more saturated fatty acids, vitamin B, magnesium, sodium, zinc, potassium.
U.S. farmers were the fastest to "pick up" the trend and are still experiencing rapid growth in production. In the UAE, camel milk has always been in demand and respected by local Arabs, but the United Arab Emirates have never aimed to become the market leader.
The UAE produces 58,000 tons of camel milk a year (data of 2020), ranking the country 8th in the world. That's not much, by comparison, Kenya already produced 1,120,000 tons and Somalia produced 960,000 tons (data of 2020).
In the '90s, not only the demand for milk increased. Consumers also had a desire to buy dairy products (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream) made from the healthier milk of the camel.
The Gulf countries have become one of the leaders in this trend. We will talk about dairy products in detail below. In the UAE, camel milk and dairy products can be bought in almost any supermarket.
The cost of producing camel milk is higher than that of cow milk.
In the UAE stores, cow milk costs 5-7 dirhams per liter, camel milk costs 15-20 dirhams. See our page "The Emirati dirham" for the current exchange rates of the UAE currency. See the supermarket photo nearby, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.
It is easy to buy camel milk in the UAE, bringing it back home in safety is much more difficult.
Pasteurized milk is ideal. Pasteurized camel milk technology is new, so it's hard to find it on the shelves. Hopefully, by the time you travel to the UAE, pasteurized milk will be widely available.
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The shelf life of fresh camel milk is 5 days in the refrigerator at 39-41°F (+4-5 °C) (pictured near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen). If you decide to try to bring it fresh, we recommend buying it right before you fly out, and after you get home, put it in the fridge right away. Tourists who have already tried this "trick" say that nothing bad happened to the milk.
Sometimes the longer shelf life may be shown on the package. For example, 10, 15 or even 20 days. The fact is that over time, nothing really bad happens to the milk, it just starts to get a little sour. For this reason, manufacturers put the expiration date at their discretion.
Another option is frozen milk (very rarely found). You buy it in a supermarket and fly home with it. Of course, it will thaw during the flight, but the taste and nutrients should remain. The important point is that it's not recomended to freeze it again, so manufacturers say.
And the most reliable option is the milk powder. The restored milk will not taste as good as fresh, but there are no problems with transportation. The price is quite high, now (September 2022) a package of 500 grams in Carrefour costs 235 dirhams (brand Camelicious).
Neither condensed nor canned camel milk is produced in the UAE yet.
Remember that milk and any dairy products are of animal origin. In many countries, there are limits and even prohibition of importing milk or dairy products by passengers. Please check the customs law of your home country before trying! Read our review "What can and cannot be exported from the UAE".
A very popular gift from the UAE is camel milk chocolate. There is only one company producing such chocolate - it is Al Nassma. This company was created specifically for the production of the chocolate in the Emirate of Dubai at the end of 2008. Creation of the company, adjustment of the technology and production process took 4 years.
Al Nassma chocolate is very expensive. The milk is produced at Camelicious farm in Dubai, pasteurized and taken to a factory in Austria, where chocolate mass is made. After being brought back to Dubai, it is formed, packed, and put on sale. A bar of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of Al Nassma chocolate costs from 50 to 100 dirhams.
It cannot always be found on sale, as the production volume is limited. Al Nassma chocolate stalls can be found in the major hotels and shopping malls in Dubai and are easily recognisable by their camel shapes. The Dubai Mall certainly has such a kiosk.
The most popular among tourists are Al Nassma chocolates in the shape of camels, pictured nearby, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen. The chocolate is available with nuts, spices, dates, orange, and honey cream.
Camel milk is used to make ice cream in the UAE. Of course, you can't bring it home as a gift, but being in the UAE, it's worth a taste. The price is 15 dirhams for 125 milliliters.
A very interesting product is called "laban" or "leben". It is similar to yogurt and the price is about 16 dirhams per liter. Another colorful dairy product is called "ghee". It is very close to butter and costs around 60 dirhams for a 400 gram jar.
In the UAE, camel milk is used to make cottage cheese, butter, and much more. But! The hardest thing for the Arabs to make was hard cheese.
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It was very difficult to get hard cheese, because conventional techniques and enzymes did not work. For the first time a hard cheese from camel milk was obtained in Mauritania in the 90s. This cheese remained the property of the Mauritanians themselves, they could not export it to other countries.
In the UAE, only in 2012, the company Camelicious released camel cheese for sale. Until now they are the only ones in the UAE who produce cheese made of camel milk. There are three varieties. Nabulsi - with cumin seeds, Akkawi - slightly salty young cheese, White Cheese. Camel cheese has a fat content of only 9-10 grams, it is considered healthier than cow, sheep or goat cheese.
Camelicious cheese is sold in packages of 200 grams. The price of such a package is about 40 dirhams. This gift can be called an exclusive, because at the time of updating this review, camel cheese is not sold outside the UAE. However, even in the UAE itself it is extremely difficult to find it.
Have fun shopping in the UAE, and read our pages about the country (see list of the pages below).
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