Sitting in the desert sand
The smell of fresh khawa
A warm hospitality from the Bedouin
A bowl foaming fresh camel milk
The sun is red
The wind leaves the sand alone…
This poem titled ‘Desert and the Wind’ by Lilianne Donders was written after she fell in love with camel milk. Donders, a Dutch woman in Oman, is enamored by camel’s milk and goes all out to promote its various health and medicinal benefits. Adopted by the Al Jenaibah tribes in Oman, she says without hesitation about the white gold or Dhahab Abyad — believed to be the closest thing to mother’s milk — a good choice when a milk substitute is needed for infants and toddlers. She claims there is a mountain of evidence to show that camel milk is by far superior and we should remake it as the milk of first choice.
Sheikha Layla to her many Arabic friends, she has totally dedicated her life to camels. For centuries camel milk was the source of health and well-being for the large population in the Middle East. “It is a pity,” says Lilianne “that the emergence of Maltese Fever (also known as Bruccelosis) coming from East Africa, and advertisement campaigns from the dairy industry have led the local population to believe that cow’s milk is the best for them and children.” She however challenges this theory.
Long after leading two charity projects ‘Caravan for Cancer’ and ‘Caravan of Hope,’ between 2000 and 2004, Lilianne now is educating people about the ‘white gold,’ or ‘Dhahab Abyad’ or camel milk, which is a super food as it contains all the ingredients to sustain life. ‘The milk has amazing benefits and is a gift of God.’
Lilianne tasted a bowl of camel’s milk in 1981 for the first time while camping in a desert near the Nimr oilfield. Her interest with camels and their milk was born there. She recollects it having a fishy taste as, it turned out, the camels were being fed with dried sardines.
Much later, in 1997, she bought Zubeida and her calf Sheba, while stationed in Syria. Camels are the most efficient animals in creating a litre of milk per volume of water consumed. As their calves must survive in the hostile environment of the desert, camel’s milk is full of the nutrients and medicines that a calf needs to thrive in the harsh climate.
As one who is consuming the milk exclusively since the past 22 years, Lilianne notes that camel’s milk is high in Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant that helps in fighting infections in the calf. The milk also has high concentrations of lysozyme, Lactoferrin and other ingredients that support the fight against infections.
She explains about the milk’s health and beauty benefits in detail. She proudly claims to have overcome breast cancer 18 years ago, using the normal medical treatment supported by drinking camel milk.
During various stages of chemotherapy and radiation, raw milk, supplied by her own camels, had an incredible effect on her body shielding her from many of the negative effects of the conventional treatment. The milk contains antibodies intended to fight against any cancer cells in the calf. The milk has been demonstrated to be effective in combatting several cancers too. It is also known to support removal of toxins from the body, especially from the liver.
“Camel milk,” she says, “supports the treatment of hepatitis, including hepatitis C infections, and liver cirrhosis.”
Especially important for Oman, where many people suffer from diabetics, is the fact that camel milk contains natural insulin. “Due to the special properties of the milk”, Lilianne states, “the insulin is not destroyed by the acid in the stomach and can be absorbed into the bloodstream by the intestines. It helps to regulate their sugar and, in some cases, even removes the need to inject insulin.
However, Lilianne advises to drink raw milk only from camels which you can trust. “They should be under veterinary supervision and certified free from Brucella infection. If you are not sure about the health of the animal providing the milk, then the milk must be pasteurised to destroy any bacteria in the milk. Good quality pasteurised camel milk is now available in Oman at well-known supermarkets.
People often complain they get diarrhoea when they drink camel’s milk first time but the reason is that camel milk has natural antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal properties. “What they are experiencing is a normal cleansing of their digestive tract, with the milk removing any undesirable overgrowth. It should stop after 4 to 5 days of drinking the milk,” Lilianne explains. “When drinking the milk for the first time, start with a small amount and increase the volume each day until reaching the amount you intend to drink daily.”
As the milk contains Lanolin in addition to other natural moisturising properties, it provides a calming and soothing effect on the skin, which enhances the the beauty of the skin.
She says the milk and dates were the healthy staple food of the Bedouins for centuries which provided them with all the proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates required to face the harsh desert life.
A day in the life for Lilianne is a busy one at her Seeb home as most of the time she tends to the camels. Early morning the camels are made to walk for about an hour after which she goes to Seeb souq to buy them fodder. Her villa overlooks the ‘Isba’ (camel enclosure) which houses her five lovely camels called Zubeida, Najmah, Ghazelle, Zahra and Shaheen. Three of these are black camels which can be quite naughty, while the white ones are more docile and easier to manage.
Together with her 6 Salukis (Arabian Greyhounds) with their flowing long hair, her camels give her good company at home.
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