Raw Camel-Milk in Riyadh!
An old friend of mine showed me where you can buy fresh camel milk on the outskirts of the city. This was truly an experience I have been waiting for over two years now. Maybe the "cool" thing for expats here to do is hit up the city towers and classy malls, but my idea of a perfect travel to Saudi involves many stinky, furry, native animals.
Upon arriving, I decided to purchase enough raw camel milk for our school's new employees to try some with me. As the Yemeni dude disappeared under a furry mother's belly, I decided to go play with the children. Each kid camel was around my height (and I am almost six feet tall!). They were so adorable. They nibbled at my abaya (long black dress that is the law in Saudi Arabia) and I felt like I was just any regular ol' member of the family.
This was my first time ever coming so close to a group of camels before. I was able to ride a camel during a biology honors trip back in college in 2006 (Manhattan, New York!) but other than that, I hadn't been around the beautiful beasts. If you can ignore the horrible stench of the animals, the mucus stuck to some of their noses, the flies buzzing around, and the jewels here and there that get eaten off your abaya, raw camel-milk hunting is the thing for you! I don't mind any of the aforementioned deterrents; I just love the animals. They truly are an amazing, beautiful species.
Being near them felt so peaceful. They exude grace; even the mother of the three kid camels who were playing with me, upon her arrival, only gently nudged me and nibbled on my clothing without hurting me (I've been nibbled on by a horse before and I can tell you it is not the same thing!).
Unfortunately, time flew by so fast and before I knew it, my milk was ready and it was time to leave. I didn't want to leave my animal friends, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I was too shy to ask the owner if I could ride the camels, but I promised myself that I would keep searching for the opportunity to before leaving Riyadh this year.
Back at work the next day, I prepared these cute camel-milk cups and a sign for my new co-workers. I wanted them to have the experience of tasting dates and raw camel milk, just like the Arab/Islamic tradition dating back over fourteen hundred years. Some of my new co-workers were braver than others, but either way, the whimsically ironic cow napkins and set-up of my camel-milk station was appreciated by all.
I spent the subsequent week drinking raw camel milk in my coffee each morning. I also boiled the heck out of the remaining milk with brown sugar, coconut, and corn starch to make a traditional Syrian desert (it's like a pudding). It was amazing. I hope I can show my family in Syria soon how to substitute raw camel milk for raw cow milk. God-willing.