x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Message of a dying tamarind for UAE honey makers

Until about five years ago, there were always bees buzzing around the only tamarind tree in Munai village, and buckets of sweet water near by.

Until about five years ago, there were always bees buzzing around the only tamarind tree in Munai village, and buckets of sweet water near by.

"My grandfather wanted to make sure the bees had water to drink when they came to visit his tree," says Ahmed Juma Al Dahmani. "He used to say, if the bees were happy, they would tell you by making honey in your tree."

More than 150 years old, the tree made Al Dahmani farm famous, with the grandfather known as Abu Al Sabbara after the tree. The late ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr Al Qassimi, and various tribal chiefs often visited the farm just to sit under this tree.

"Many feuds and arguments were settled under this tree," says Ahmed. "It was a blessed tree."

But with his grandfather's death at 105, the tree is also slowly dying. "We water it, and try to take care of it, and put the same buckets, but the bees just stopped coming," he says.

His explanation is that the local bees are "too independent and free" to domesticate, so it is difficult to make them stay around in the same area.

"The honeycomb collected from this tree used to be unique to our village, and it was always a festival whenever we found a bees nest," he says. The honey was mixed with milk and served as a drink for guests to the farm.

"Honey is actually more bitter if made straight from flowers, it is tastier when made from the nectar of trees," he says.

The honey from this tree was said to be even more delicious than the famous Yemeni sidr honey, which is known to have more nutrients and antioxidants than any other.

Now the farm is overseen by the grandmother, Umm Juma, 80, who takes care of all the trees and flowers, fruits such as lime and pomegranate trees and the onion fields. But despite all efforts to revive the tree, with gallons of water bought and stored in tanks, the family believes it is just a matter of time.

"I believe this tree is symbolic of where our farms are heading. The behaviour of the bees is the subtle indicator of what is happening in our nature," says Ahmed.

* Rym Ghazal