I came across this photo that took me back to my trip to Ethiopia when I went in search of white honey. It was a journey that took me from Dubai to Addis Ababa and then to the northern quite remote part of Ethiopia on the Eritrean border. Around a quarter of Africa’s honey comes from Ethiopia and honey production is the second biggest source of revenue after coffee production. There is the red, yellow and even black honey but I was in search of the white kind which is considered to be special, particularly the kind sourced in the Tigray region. This distinctive white honey is made from a local flower known as Adey Abeba, and it is this that gives it the special white colour. This natural, healthy, beautiful product took me to Mekelle and on a road trip to higher ground or as Ethiopians say, where ‘the mountains gather for a meeting’ and there I met with local beekeepers, supported by NGO’s and Slow Food International, who are making a living and helping the community grow a cottage industry.
Orit Mohammad of Boon Coffee is no stranger to the ways of the land as she trades in Ethiopian speciality coffee. She was my guide and she shared her insights into the culture of honey and the challenges faced when it comes to exporting out of the country. To hear the full story of my journey, the beekeepers I met and the apiaries I visited listen to the podcast here, at Dubai Eye 103.8
Sights from the car on the road from Mekelle to Wukro in the Tigray region, known for its special white honey.
Arriving in the town of Wukro where the Alomo family live and store their honey.
The Alomo children greet me, hopefully, they will be the next generation continuing the tradition of beekeeping, like their father.
Tasting the white honey for the first time with Mrs Alomo, wife of beekeeper Mr Alomo.
On the road going into the mountains to the site of more hives, also where I got to see one of the rock-hewn churches you can find in this area dating back to the 6th Century BC.
So precious is the honey these hives are watched over by armed guards 24/7.
Back in Mekelle with my guides, Orit Mohammad, her sister Hanan and Mr Albera. The gentleman with the staff watches over the hives to keep them safe.
Sitting amongst the hives, ‘nib’ is the word for bees in Amharic and ‘mar’ means honey.
In Addis with Orit Mohammad at the family home and Orit is roasting beans for the first round of coffee that day, her mother is in the background.
Dus Betuluk, delicious deep-fried pastries drizzled in white honey and served with Ethiopian speciality coffee.
Your honey takeaway
Honey is revered all over the world and in Ethiopia, it is considered a symbol of good fortune and is often presented as a gift on special occasions. At weddings, the groom is given a spoon of honey in order to ‘keep him sweet’.
Is there a local dish or ingredient from a country that stands out in your memory? Share your experience, good or bad, I would love to hear about it.