Farmers of the Negev
Mariam Abu RakeekTel Sheva
Mariam was born in the Negev and raised in a traditional Bedouin upbringing. She comes from a family with a long tradition of healing and knowledge of desert herbs, fruits, and oils. She completed her undergraduate studies at university in England, where she was inspired by the growing trend of people everywhere seeking natural healing options for their cosmetic ailments. Returning home to the Bedouin Negev town of Tel Sheva, she founded Desert Daughter, a home-based operation combining her love of healing, her cultural roots, and her understanding of small-scale industry.
Mariam’s story is unique among the Bedouin, a largely nomadic people living in various desert regions across the Middle East. The Bedouin community of Israel faces a number of challenges such as tense relations with the state, lack of infrastructure, and economic difficulty. Mariam’s story is all the more special when considering her status as a woman in a traditional society.
Everything about Mariam’s venture into small-scale soap and herbal production is groundbreaking. “First of all, my products are homemade and produced only by women,” Mariam says. “They are authentic and very unique–my soap is the only authentic Bedouin soap on the market.” Previously, Mariam’s products had been sold only locally in Israel’s desert; now, with the connection provided by Negev Nectars, they will be distributed overseas for the first time.
Mariam’s village, Tel Sheva, was established in 1968 under a plan to create more permanent settlement infrastructure for Negev Bedouin. Roughly 13,000 Bedouin live in the town today, which is located in the northern Negev just outside of the desert gateway city of Be’er Sheva. The town suffers from low average income and poor schooling records. We hope that the new partnership between Mariam and Negev Nectars will be a positive change for the community.
Mariam produces oils, lotions, and herbs, but her signature products are her soaps, which she provides to Negev Nectars. Desert Daughter soaps are made with either a camel’s milk or olive oil base, and incorporate healing herbs from the region. Each bar of premium hand-crafted soap is cut by hand and reflects the tradition and knowledge of generations of Bedouin healing and soap-making.
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