The world’s best honey
The Gulf produces some of the tastiest honey in the world. But how can you tell which varieties are the bees’ knees? Daisy Carrington meets a local expert to find out 7 Comments
- Picture 1 of 2
Assad Abdalla is a sprightly man. Originally from Egypt, he has run Bee Kingdom, a small shop in Bur Dubai that specialises in local honey, for 25 years. He has grown up in the honey business: his father was a bee farmer. It’s safe to say he has honey in his blood, and in copious amounts. ‘My blood sugar is a little high, but I have lots of energy from eating it every day,’ he tells Time Out, adding proudly: ‘Could you guess that I’m 50?’
Abdalla stocks honey from Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Pakistan and the UAE. He receives it in the form of honeycombs, keeps it for six weeks, constantly tests the sugar and humidity levels and then collects it in bottles. Unlike supermarket honey, this stuff is pure.
‘What you get in the shops isn’t honey, it’s sugar,’ he explains. ‘Honey is expensive to harvest and supermarkets can’t afford to sell this stuff for Dhs75 per kilo, so they water it down.’ I have a taste and discover it’s true: his honey is not as sweet as commercial versions. He gives me a spoonful of his most expensive stuff – Emirati honey that sells for Dhs500 a kilo. Flavour-wise, it is to honey what gorgonzola is to cheese; it’s powerful, and though I only sample a tiny amount, I can feel the vapours seeping down my throat.
Abdalla explains that this variety is harvested by small bees up in the mountains, where the humidity, which ages honey faster, is less pronounced. Because of the bees’ diminutive size, the honey isn’t as sweet and they produce less of it. What’s more, they can’t be farmed, meaning this honey is wild and extremely rare. It would be more accurate to describe the men that harvest it as hunters – they have to actively stake out the bees and their booty.
Dhs500 may seem like an extreme price to pay for some sugary syrup (it is the most expensive product in the shop), but Abdalla maintains that many are willing to fork out for the honey’s medical properties: it’s apparently good for the colon, for digestion and for the memory. Also, the mountains where it originates are tucked away a fair distance from the city and its pollutants, meaning the product is fresher and cleaner than most.
‘Honey plays an important role in Arab culture,’ he informs me. ‘In the Qur’an there are many mentions of honey and pollen being used to keep humans healthy, in the same way as ginger and olives. A lot of my customers see me for medical mixtures I make from the honey; they come with a doctor’s prescription.’
Abdalla has honey-based elixirs that he claims can treat almost any ailment. He unscrews a large container of white powder: pollen from palm trees. As I take a whiff, he informs me that the stuff has a very masculine smell. It’s an interesting coincidence – Abdalla claims its medicinal function is to bolster male fertility.
‘So how can you tell if you’re buying good honey?’ I ask. ‘Well, after you eat it, your pee smells like honey…’ he replies. But what if I want a more immediate indication? It all comes down to the smell, he tells me. It should be potent: open the jar and you should be able to detect the honey scent from a good distance.
He gives me some Pakistani honey to take home with me. I can’t comment on its health properties: I don’t know if it will give me more energy or virility, or disinfect me, but I do know that it is some of the most delicious honey I’ve ever tasted. It has character, and in place of a flat sugar-based sweetness is a rich floral undertone. And, of course, I know it’s pure.
Bee Kingdom, Al Rolla Street, Bur Dubai (04 352 2455)
Time Out Dubai,
- Academic City(3)
- Al Quoz(17)
- Arabian Ranches(10)
- Bur Dubai(164)
- Business Bay(4)
- Discovery Gardens(10)
- Downtown Dubai(161)
- Dubai Internet City(11)
- Dubai Investments Park(3)
- Dubai Marina(227)
- Dubai Media City(37)
- Emirates Hills(21)
- Festival City(48)
- Green Community(9)
- International City(19)
- Jebel Ali(17)
- Jumeirah Lakes Towers(42)
- Knowledge Village(1)
- Motor City(5)
- Nad Al Sheba(9)
- Oud Metha(83)
- Palm Jumeirah(61)
- Sheikh Zayed Road(166)
- Silicon Oasis(3)
- The Gardens(23)
- Umm Suqeim(63)
- Afternoon tea(46)
- Alcohol available(600)
- All you can eat deal(91)
- Brunch served(77)
- Business lunch(78)
- Family friendly(312)
- Floating restaurant(10)
- Formal dress code(22)
- Great view(33)
- Live music(149)
- Outdoor seating(519)
- Pork served(94)
- Private dining area(75)
- Smoking permitted(340)
- Take away(358)
Most viewed restaurantsAll reviews
Most viewed articles
- Time Out Dubai Restaurant Awards 2014
- Dubai food events this week
- Dubai Food Festival essential events
- Dubai Food Festival at the Litfest
- Dubai Food Festival Beach Canteen
Our favourite features
101 celebrities in the UAE The most famous faces spotted in the emirates throughout 2013
Best selling albums of 2013 The top 20 sellers in the UAE: Who comes out on top?
Around the world at Global Village Dubai Stop and shop across the globe at the UAE's cultural park
Iconic Dubai buildings explained We celebrate some of the city's less well-known architectural triumphs
Hot new Japanese restaurants in Dubai Following a burst of new openings, we round up the newcomers
20 delicious low calories dishes in Dubai Our favourite feasts which pack just 500 calories or less
Pictures: Dubai from the sky We hopped aboard a Seawings flight to capture some amazing views of the ...
30 FREE things to do in Dubai From fitness trends to arty movie screenings, how to have free fun
20 celebrity chef restaurants in Dubai The celebrity-inspired restaurants that have come (and in some cases, go...
Massive new developments coming to Dubai FOUR huge islands off Deira, a 30,000-seater stadium, 100-storey tower, ...
21 restaurants to try in Downtown Dubai We dine our way down Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard (Emaar Boulevard)
50 best dishes of 2013 From budget to blow-out, the best our reviewers have been served in 2013
An essential guide to renting in Dubai Beat price hikes, pick the right area, and know your rights
How to get a pay rise 20 expert tips to bag more cash from your boss
30 top outdoor bars in Dubai As the temperatures cool we round up the best places to drink outside in...