In the Al-Hajar mountain chain of northern Oman, what appears to be just a pile of logs is actually an apiary.
This is a centuries-old method of beekeeping which has been passed down from one generation to the next.
And in the traditional Omani method, the bees form a hive in a hollowed out palm tree.
The thickness of the trunk protects them in both hot and cold temperatures, from winter to summer.
Omani bee-hunters track the insects from their water source to the naturally formed hives, hidden in the mountains.
Unfortunately, these ancient techniques are dying, with most of the country’s beekeepers moving towards more cost-effective modern beehives.
Dr. Hassan Al Lawati, who works in the Ministry of Agriculture’s honey bee research department, explains that the latest, cutting-edge methods help beekeepers monitor their bees more efficiently.
“It’s easy to observe, to see the hive situation, if they are active, if they are sick. Or if they need food.” he says, “With the trunk, it’s more difficult.”
With Oman’s diverse landscape, the country is able to produce many varieties of honey. The blossoms of Acacia tortilla trees in the northern mountains yield Al Somer Honey, while the Frankincense trees in the south create Al Luban Honey.
As Oman attempts to diversify its economy away from its dependence on oil, the government is developing other industries like agriculture.
Free apiary trainings is offered, with the aim of expanding the honey sector and going some way to solving Oman’s high unemployment.
Today, Oman is home to more than 5,000 honey farmers and more than 100,000 hives.
Last year, its estimated that in excess of 600 tones of honey was produced and sold for a total of 35 and a half million euros (over 40 million US dollars) .
Mir Adil Ali, who manages a honey shop in Muscat, says the industry is being given a boost by rising demand for bee-related products.
“People are trying to get into the honey business, as well as trying to get more innovative methods of producing honey,” he says. “They see a lot of scope for honey, and the consumption level in Oman is much higher than most of the Middle East countries.”
With demand often outweighing supply, prices of pollen, royal jelly and pure honey for the global consumer can sting. A pot of Al Luban Honey, for example, can cost around 80 euros (91 US dollars).
As for Omani locals and residents elsewhere in the Gulf, it would seem that they are not only attracted to honey’s sweet taste but also to its medicinal and cosmetic qualities.
To cater for demand, clinics and spas using bee products have popped up from Muscat to Abu Dhabi. They offering a wide range of treatments including honey-based massages, and for the brave there’s even a ‘bee-venom’ facial.
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Wildlife conservation student Rabab stumbled upon this beehive in her backyard in Oman.