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The honey from the Wadi Do'an valley, in Yemen, it's said to cure numerous illnesses, grant sexual power and would contribute to finance fundamentalist organizations.

Yemen: the mysteries of the world's most expensive honey. Photos ŠVirginie Vican/PictureTank/LightMediation Text ŽGuillaume Pitron Contact - Thierry Tinacci Lightmediation Photo Agency +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 thierry@lightmediation


1457-09: A beekeeper watches over his beehives, a Kalashnikov fixed around his shoulder. With 60 million weapons, Yemen is the second most armed country in the world after the United States of America.


1457-01: Outside their tent and close to their camp, young beekeepers are resting and they just prepared a fire to cook

1457-03: Inside their tent young beekeepers are resting.

1457-04: Inside their tent, young beekeepers work on their daily tasks: checking their weapon

1457-05: Wooden beehives are attached behind the truck. After a three-night trip, the beehives are fixed on trestles, close to the tents.


1457-24: Each year, in October, thousand of beekeepers gather in the Wadi Do'an Valley, with their beehives fastened to the truck. Trucks only travel by night, to avoid loosing bees.


1457-06: Close to their camp, young beekeepers work on their daily tasks: preparing fire...

1457-08: Exhausted by a three-night trip across Yemen, young beekeepers rest at the back of their truck. Nomadic beekeepers move 5 times per year across the country, with their beehives.

1457-09: A beekeeper watches over his beehives, a Kalashnikov fixed around his shoulder. With 60 million weapons, Yemen is the second most armed country in the world after the United States of

1457-10: A beekeeper watches over his beehives, a Kalashnikov fixed around his shoulder. With 60 million weapons, Yemen is the second most armed country in the world after the United States of America.


1457-11: These Yemeni beehives are made of wood.


1457-11: These Yemeni beehives are made of wood.

1457-12: The Apis Mellifera Yemenitica bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each beehive contains 25000 bees.

1457-13: Two beekeepers are getting rid of insects and bumble-bee.

1457-14: Covered by a mere headscarf to avoid bee stings, a beekeeper checks a honeycomb.


1457-16: Beehives are moved at the bottom of the cliffs of the Wadi Do'an Valley for six weeks. Shortly afterwards, honeycombs are harvested and then filtered.


1457-15: Beehives are moved at the bottom of the cliffs of the Wadi Do'an Valley for six weeks. Shortly afterwards, honeycombs are harvested and then filtered.

1457-16: Beehives are moved at the bottom of the cliffs of the Wadi Do'an Valley for six weeks. Shortly afterwards, honeycombs are harvested and then filtered.

1457-17: The "Apis Mellifera Yemenitica" bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each hive contains 25000 bees.

1457-18: The Apis Mellifera Yemenitica bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each hive contains 25000 bees.


1457-30: Beekeepers transport honey to various Hadramaout markets. Honey is then sold by auction. Dealers come from all the Golf countries - and mainly from Saudi Arabia - to buy such precious liquid.


1457-19: The Apis Mellifera Yemenitica bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each hive contains 25000 bees. /

1457-20: Beehives are installed under jujube trees. In order to be protected from heat, they are covered up with a blanket fixed with stones.

1457-21: A bee picks up nectar from a jujube flower.

1457-22: Once filtered, the honey is stocked into cans, or put into pots. At the bottom of the Al Hajjarin Village, in the Wadi Do' an valley, two beekeepers pour this precious liquid into glassy pots.


1457-34: In his very small shop, Taha Hussein Abrauni, 41 years old, sells honey made medications to wealthy customers. The picture has been taken in his chemist shop, in the pharmacy market, old Sana'a.


1457-23: In his workshop, a beekeeper pulls a terra cotta beehive out of an oven.

1457-24: Each year, in October, thousand of beekeepers gather in the Wadi Do'an Valley, with their beehives fastened to the truck. Trucks only travel by night, to avoid loosing bees.

1457-25: Honeycombs are also sold into circular metal boxes.

1457-27: Honeycombs are also sold into circular metal boxes.


1457-40: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign countries.


1457-28: Beekeepers transport honey to various Hadramaout markets. Honey is then sold by auction. Dealers come from all the Golf countries - and mainly from Saudi Arabia - to buy such precious liquid.

1457-29: Honeycombs are also sold into circular metal boxes.

1457-30: Beekeepers transport honey to various Hadramaout markets. Honey is then sold by auction. Dealers come from all the Golf countries - and mainly from Saudi Arabia - to buy such precious liquid.

1457-32: Beekeepers transport honey to various Hadramaout markets. Honey is then sold by auction. Dealers come from all the Golf countries - and mainly from Saudi Arabia - to buy such precious liquid.


1457-47: Women can also buy all kinds of beauty products made with honey (soap, hand cream, face cream).


1457-34: In his very small shop, Taha Hussein Abrauni, 41 years old, sells honey made medications to wealthy customers. The picture has been taken in his chemist shop, in the pharmacy market, old Sana'a.

1457-35: Taha Hussein Abrauni is preparing an intellectual energizer based on honey mixed with oil of rock, sea cucumbers, powder of dried lizards and fish scales. He is assisted by Kamal Al Yadumi.

1457-36: A Librarian reads the Targig Al Hassal ("the treatment with honey"), from a medical collection written in 1449 after Jesus Christ by doctors and researchers. This book can be found in the Tarim

1457-37: A Librarian reads the Targig Al Hassal ("the treatment with honey"), from a medical collection written in 1449 after Jesus Christ by doctors and researchers. This book can be found in the Tarim


1457-56: At the terrace of the luxurious hotel Buj Al Salam, in Sana'a, women mix honey with ginger to get sweet tea or coffee. They also smoke nargileh made of honey and strawberry tobacco. Salwa Alameri, a Yemeni student in Philadelphia, (on the right side of the picture) says: ÂŤ Each time my mother comes to the United Stated to visit me, she is being asked if she carries honey. US authorities are afraid that honey could be used to smuggle illicit goods.


1457-38: In Al Mukalla, on the edges of the Gulf of Aden, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in

1457-39: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign

1457-40: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign

1457-41: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign


1457-38: In Al Mukalla, on the edges of the Gulf of Aden, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign countries.


1457-43: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign

1457-44: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign

1457-45: In Sana'a, dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign

1457-46: Customer can buy local and foreign honey in Sana'a supermarkets.


1457-29: Honeycombs are also sold into circular metal boxes.

1457-53: Wedding day is Thusday in Yemen. Men gather for lunch in Sana'a suburb. They are dressed with their traditional jacket, and the jambia, a big curved dagger fixed at the stomach. During Wedding lunches


1457-47: Women can also buy all kinds of beauty products made with honey (soap, hand cream, face cream).

1457-48: In the old Sana'a spice souk, small shops sell pistachios, raisins and sweets made with honey.

1457-49: In the kitchens of the luxurious restaurant Al Faquer, in Sana'a, chefs prepare Harish, a dish based on crushed wheat, and watered with honey.

1457-50: In the kitchens of the luxurious restaurant Al Faquer, in Sana'a, waitresses are preparing the table.


1457-37: A Librarian reads the Targig Al Hassal ("the treatment with honey"), from a medical collection written in 1449 after Jesus Christ by doctors and researchers. This book can be found in the Tarim religious and medical library, in the Hadramaout.


1457-51: Wedding day is Thusday in Yemen. Men gather for lunch in Sana'a suburb. They are dressed with their traditional jacket, and the jambia, a big curved dagger fixed at the stomach. During Wedding

1457-53: Wedding day is Thusday in Yemen. Men gather for lunch in Sana'a suburb. They are dressed with their traditional jacket, and the jambia, a big curved dagger fixed at the stomach. During Wedding

1457-54: After three days of festivity, the husband will eat two spoons of the 'Thursday honey', known for its aphrodisiac effects, before joining his wife at midnight.

1457-56: At the terrace of the luxurious hotel Buj Al Salam, in Sana'a, women mix honey with ginger to get sweet tea or coffee. They also smoke nargileh made of honey and strawberry tobacco. Salwa Alameri, a


1457-64: Night life in the old town of Sana'a.

1457-59: The Wadi Do'an Valley, where the world's most expensive honey is cultivated, is full of small villages surrounded by abrupt cliffs and palm plantations

1457-61: Sana'a, capital of Yemen, is the main town of the country where the Wadi Do'an honey is transported.

1457-62: Football team playing in Al Hajjarin village.


1457-58: Two Yemeni teenagers taste honey in a boat, close to the Al Mukalla Town, on the Gulf of Aden.


Yemen: the mysteries of the world's most expensive honey. In Yemen, the honey from the Wadi Do'an valley is a substance considered as precious as oil. It is said to bring wealth to merchants while doctors consider it a universal remedy. Bee keepers speak of a gift from Allah. Women believe in its virtues to fight infertility and men praise its aphrodisiac qualities. Its taste of butter caramel, its purity, its rarity and its medical applications mentioned in the Koran contribute to making it the world's most expensive honey. A kilogram of this honey can be sold up to 65 Euros in Yemen while prices hike up to 140 Euros in Dubai, where sheikhs give it to their camels before a race, convinced of its energetic qualities. This combination of rational explanations and mysterious beliefs make it a genuine liquid Gold. In October, thousands of semi nomadic beekeepers converge to the Wadi Do'an valley, birthplace of the Yemeni honey since three millions of years, with their hives harnessed on their trucks. In this valley of the Hadramaout desert, east of Yemen, grows the thorny jujube tree, which flowers contribute to one of the most precious honey out of the dozen produced locally. Simple tents cover the valley over 150 km. Hundreds of thousands hives are piled up under the

trees with bees buzzing all around. Beekeepers look after their herds, Kalashnikov across the shoulder. « A beekeeper is a gold seeker: I am respected and rich » says Salem Shamlan, 44. The honey rush has started. Mid November, the honey pies are extracted and sun filtered. The liquid is stocked and escorted to the markets of Hadramaout. Merchants from all over the Gulf rush to the souk of El Qatan, a dusty town and the local honey hub. Traders examine the amber shades of the nectar, appreciate its fluidity, dip their index into the recipients and savor its unique taste. Its spicy notes remain in the throat for long minutes and its thick texture procures a delicious warm sensation. The honey is then dispatched to the larger cities. In the two hundred stores of Sanaa, with their flashy mirrors and varnished panelling, merchants offer a tasting of the different vintages, distinguishing one from the other, as subtly as for French wines. The quality, the variety and the price of this honey have considerably increased in the last ten years. The produce is sold to an elite and it has become an art of living. It is poured over puff pastry, bread, dates or bananas. It is mixed with ginger to soften the tea. At weddings, family reunions or with guests, it is a sign of prestige and a welcoming gesture. As a present, it is a mark of consideration: «On the occasion of his official visit to President Jacques Chirac in 2006 or to Nicolas Sarkozy in June 2007, President Abdel Aya Saleh offered with a bottle of the aphrodisiac honey», recalls Gilles Gauthier, ambassador of France to Yemen. « The honey is a treasure », admits Taha Hussein Abrauni, 41. At the back of his store in the Pharmacists' souk in Sanaa, surrounded by bottles filled with ginseng

roots, spices and myrrh, the Arab doctor prepares his magical remedies. « Mixed with roc oil, dried lizard powder and fish scale, the honey is an excellent aphrodisiac ». The elixir presumably treats cancers, cures sore throats, stomach aches and accelerates the healing process. Each store elaborates their own oils, shampoos, soaps and beauty creams based on the honey. To the point where the main honey chain stores is naturally called Al Shiffa - « healing » in Arabic. The liquid has its dark sides, however: In October 2001, George Bush ordered that the assets of 39 entities presumably close to Oussama Bin Laden be frozen. Despite Yemen's denials, ally to the United States in the fight against Al-Qeïda, two of them, Yemeni honey businesses, are still suspected to launder terrorism money. Western countries believe that this honey facilitates smuggling. Two men were arrested at a New York airport in October 2001 with 140 000 dollars hidden in gallons of honey destined to Yemen. This actually does arouse mistrust. « Each time my mother comes to visit me in the United States, customs services always ask her whether she carries honey », explains Salwa Alameri, 29, a Yemeni woman student in Philadelphia. Yemeni believe that the honey entertains connections with the fundamentalist branch of the very conservative Islâh party. First opposition party, Islâh supposedly controls the majority of the market, its 5600 tons and the 45 millions of Euros generated each year. « The supposed competition between the different businesses hide an organisation which levies a tax and discourages those who might resist », complains a merchant. The majority of those working in the apiary field can easily be recognized by their beard, which is a way to show that they subscribe, be it sincere or calculated, to

fundamentalist thesis. Part of these revenues supposedly contributes to financing universities and hospitals relaying the radical doctrine. Suspicions, however, do not take away the prestige and magic of the honey. It still has a place of honour in the historical, culinary, artistic, scientific and religious patrimony of the country. Yemenis are passionate for the development of beekeeping on Socotra Island, thanks to the initiative of the French beekeepers Camille and Thierry Sergent. The YLNG Company even plans to finance apiary projects along the gas pipeline to the Aden golf in 2008. « What would we do without this honey? asks Mohammed Khanbash, 49, professor of apiculture at Hadramaout University. At least, we would still have Allah! »


Captions. Photo 1 Outside their tent and close to their camp, young beekeepers are resting and they just prepared a fire to cook. Photo 2 Outside their tent young beekeepers are resting Photo 3 Inside their tent young beekeepers are resting. Photo 4 Inside their tent, young beekeepers work on their daily tasks: checking their weapon Photo 5 Wooden beehives are attached behind the truck. After a three-night trip, the beehives are fixed on trestles, close to the tents. Photo 6 Close to their camp, young beekeepers work on their daily tasks: preparing fire... Photo 7 Young beekeepers stand up close to their camp. Photo 9 Exhausted by a three-night trip across Yemen, young beekeepers rest at the back of their truck. Nomadic beekeepers move 5 times per year across the country, with their beehives. Photos 10 & 11 A beekeeper watches over his beehives, a Kalashnikov fixed around his shoulder. With 60 million weapons, Yemen is the second most armed country in the world

after the United States of America.

liquid into glassy pots.

Hadramaout.

Photo 12 These Yemeni beehives are made of wood.

Photo 23 In his workshop, a beekeeper pulls a terra cotta beehive out of an oven.

Photo 13 The 'Apis Mellifera Yemenitica' bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each beehive contains 25000 bees.

Photo 24 Each year, in October, thousand of beekeepers gather in the Wadi Do'an Valley, with their beehives fastened to the truck. Trucks only travel by night, to avoid loosing bees.

Photos 39 Ă  45 In Al Mukalla, on the edges of the Gulf of Aden (photo 39) and in Sana'a (photos 40 to 45), dealers sell the honey to rich customers, in a kitsch decor of varnished panels and mirrors. A kilogram of honey can reach 90 US Dollars per kilo in Yemen, and 200 US Dollars in foreign countries.

Photo 14 Two beekeepers are getting rid of insects and bumble-bee. Photo 15 Covered by a mere headscarf to avoid bee stings, a beekeeper checks a honeycomb. Photo 16 & 17 Beehives are moved at the bottom of the cliffs of the Wadi Do'an Valley for six weeks. Shortly afterwards, honeycombs are harvested and then filtered.

Photos 18, 19 & 20 The 'Apis Mellifera Yemenitica' bee is the most important species in Yemen. Each hive contains 25000 bees. Photo 21 Beehives are installed under jujube trees. In order to be protected from heat, they are covered up with a blanket fixed with stones. Photo 21b A bee picks up nectar from a jujube flower. Photo 22 Once filtered, the honey is stocked into cans, or put into pots. At the bottom of the Al Hajjarin Village, in the Wadi Do' an valley, two beekeepers pour this precious

Photos 26, 27, 28 & 30 Honeycombs are also sold into circular metal boxes. Photos 29, 31, 32, 33 & 34 Beekeepers transport honey to various Hadramaout markets. Honey is then sold by auction. Dealers come from all the Golf countries - and mainly from Saudi Arabia to buy such precious liquid. Photo 35 In his very small shop, Taha Hussein Abrauni, 41 years old, sells honey made medications to wealthy customers. The picture has been taken in his chemist shop, in the pharmacy market, old Sana'a.

Photo 36 Taha Hussein Abrauni is preparing an intellectual energizer based on honey mixed with oil of rock, sea cucumbers, powder of dried lizards and fish scales. He is assisted by Kamal Al Yadumi. Photos 37 & 38 A Librarian reads the Targig Al Hassal ("the treatment with honey"), from a medical collection written in 1449 after Jesus Christ by doctors and researchers. This book can be found in the Tarim religious and medical library, in the

Photo 47 Customer can buy local and foreign honey in Sana'a supermarkets. Photo 48 Women can also buy all kinds of beauty products made with honey (soap, hand cream, face cream). Photo 49 In the old Sana'a spice souk, small shops sell pistachios, raisins and sweets made with honey. Photo 50 In the kitchens of the luxurious restaurant Al Faquer, in Sana'a, chefs prepare Harish, a dish based on crushed wheat, and watered with honey. Photo 51 & 52 Wedding day is Thusday in Yemen. Men gather for lunch in Sana'a suburb. They are dressed with their traditional jacket, and the jambia, a big curved dagger fixed at the stomach. During Wedding lunches the bride and guests can taste the Bentasaan (a pastry made of butter and honey). Photo 53 & 54 After three days of festivity, the husband will eat two spoons of the 'Thursday honey', known for its aphrodisiac effects,


cultivable surfaces. Shibam is located in the heart of the Hadramaout desert, the beekeeping activity birthplace in Yemen. before joining his wife at midnight. Photo 55 At the terrace of the luxurious hotel Buj Al Salam, in Sana'a, women mix honey with ginger to get sweet tea or coffee. They also smoke nargileh made of honey and strawberry tobacco. Salwa Alameri, a Yemeni student in Philadelphia, (on the right side of the picture) says: ÂŤ Each time my mother comes to the United Stated to visit me, she is being asked if she carries honey. US authorities are afraid that honey could be used to smuggle illicit goods. Photo 56 & 57 Two Yemeni teenagers taste honey in a boat, close to the Al Mukalla Town, on the Gulf of Aden. Photo 58 The Wadi Do'an Valley, where the world's most expensive honey is cultivated, is full of small villages surrounded by abrupt cliffs and palm plantations. Photo 59 Sanaa, capital of Yemen, is the main town of the country where the Wadi Do'an honey is transported. Photo 61 Daily life in the souk of Sana'a. Photos 62, 63, 64& 64b Daily life in the old town of Sana'a. Photo 65 The town of Shibam, also called "Manhattan's desert", has been built in height in order not to encroach upon

Photo 66 Teenagers playing at the bottom of Shibam's tours.


Yemen: the world's most expensive honey.