13 December, 2007

Making Sesame Oil The Old Way in Hadhramaut

Any one who has traveled around Hadhramout, will have noticed how camels are used, in the old traditional way, to produce sesame oil. There are still a few camels around Mukalla, and just a short distance from the center of Mukalla, in the outskirts - is the small village of Al'Ayoun. There, can be found several camels being used to produce the oil.


Above, is a video footage taken during a recent travel through Al'Ayoun: the camel, which is closest to the main road, sporting leather blinkers the size of small searchlights, circles the chamber, a wooden arm linking it to a central stone pillar which rotated as the animal tramped stolidly on. It is a simple mill for producing sesame oil - and it would hardly have looked out of place two or more centuries ago. That's Hadhramout: old traditions still being retained; and yet, all over - there is rapid, modernisation taking place. The oil produced is sold, to travellers passing by and merchants, at around the equivalent of 5 US$ a liter. Hadhramy's believe that, sesame oil produced, locally, in the old traditional way, is the best for health.

HISTORY AND USES: Native to Africa, sesame is now cultivated in many tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. In ancient Egypt, the seeds were eaten and also pressed to yield oil, which was burned in lamps and used to make ointments. Sesame is used in China to redress afflictions of the liver and kidneys. The seeds are prescribed for problems such as dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and blurred vision. Owing to their lubricating effect within the digestive tract, the seeds are also considered a remedy for constipation. Sesame seed oil benefits the skin and is used as a base for cosmetics. A decoction of the root is used in various traditions to treat coughs and asthma.

MAIN PROPERTIES: Digestive, aromatic, antispasmodic.