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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saudis lead world in camel urine research

You can make fun of the Arabs all you want, but they sure know how to find good uses for camel urine. This article in AKI last year gives the gruesome details:
Camel urine, considered an ancient Islamic 'remedy' from the time of the Prophet Mohammed, has become big business for men and women in Yemen.

The urine has become fashionable recently among Yemen's young people, who claim that it strengthens the scalp, slows hair loss and promotes healthy hair.

According to the Arab TV network al-Arabiya, hair salons throughout the country are requesting this precious 'tonic' and selling it at four dollars a litre - a high price considering the income level of most of the buyers.

"I have been using camel urine since I have been going to elementary school," said Amal, a university student in Sanaa.

"The first time a neighbour told me that she had been using it (urine) for many years, because it made her hair more beautiful and shiny. Now everyone in my home uses it."

The use of the urine is not just limited to women. Men have reportedly also been using it to prevent or stop hair loss.

"Many young men use the camel's urine. I am forced to buy large quantities for my business," said Hasan, a barber.

A boom in the sale of camel urine has prompted people to begin breeding more camels, and they are constantly being given liquids in order to collect more urine.

Nomadic camel breeders have benefited the most from the sale of urine. The breeders are usually in the most remote areas of the country such as Hudeida and Mukallah provinces.

Some people also claim that camel urine is good for the liver, a claim discredited by the University of Sanaa that said it was harmful for the digestive system.

The use of camel urine could have its roots in Islamic religion. In the Prophet Mohammed's "sunna" (or tradition), it talks about the benefits of camel milk and urine.

In a "hadith" (or narrative), foreigners are said to have gone to the holy city of Medina with high fever and the Prophet Mohammed ordered them to leave the city and drink urine and milk from a camel to help them recover.
So it is only natural that camel urine would be a cornerstone of research by Arabs to find every miraculous use possible. Which is perhaps why it was a Saudi who found that camel urine can possibly cure cancer:
Saudi inventors received eight awards in the ITEX 2009 exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur between 15 and 17 May, with one of the winning inventions - microparticles in camel’s urine to treat cancer by Dr. Faten Khorsheed from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah – chosen as one of the six best out of 600 inventions presented to win the exhibition’s Asia Cup.
Who said that Arabs aren't any good at science?

(I must confess I don't understand why a potential cancer cure is being exhibited at an inventors' fair rather than being presented as a paper in a medical journal. But who am I to judge Dr. Khorsheed's priorities?)