Food Perceptions – Honey

honey - wooden bowl!

The role of a food product often changes between cultures and sometimes even within a culture. A friend from India once complained to me about how many American desserts and breakfast products and were flavored with cinnamon, explaining that cinnamon is, “not for sweets!”

In Dhofar, local honey is mainly a medicinal product, taken straight by the spoonful for coughs, upper respiratory and stomach ailments. Honey from hives in the mountains is usually bottled into glass bottles (often Vimto) and given to family, friends and neighbors; sometimes a few bottles are sold. This honey is taken in small amounts daily or when a person is sick.

There are also stores and booths at local festivals staffed by Yemenis and selling Yemeni honey. Rodionov has an excellent article discussing the cultural practices with respect to honey in Hadramawt (see below). The Yemeni dish, bint al Sahn, is not served as dessert normally in Dhofar, but it can be found in Yemeni restaurants.

On the other hand, commercially produced honey is bought at a grocery store and drizzled liberally as a sweetener on bread at breakfast. It is not expensive, for example if non-local honey is brought on a camping trip, whatever is not used is often poured out and the container thrown away.

Thus honey inhabits two separate spheres with a huge difference in the cultural importance  and function. Honey from Yemen or Dhofar is valuable, not just in price but in worth. A bottle of local honey is a treasured gift, consumed slowly and entirely over weeks or months. The tall glass bottles are kept out in a safe place, out of reach of children. Honey bought at the grocery store usually comes in plastic squeeze bottles and if it is spilled or wasted, it is not perceived as a great loss.

The Omani government supports bee-keeping both in terms of honey production and protecting/ increasing the bee population.



Rodionov, Mikhail. “Honey, Coffee, and Tea in Cultural Practices of Ḥaḍramawt,” in Herbal Medicines in Yemen: Traditional Knowledge and Practice, and Their Value for Today’s World. Ingrid Hehmeyer and Hanne Schönig, eds. Brill: Boston, 2012, 143-152.