Sesame Oil Pressers in Yemen Resist Technology Advancements

National Yemen

Kamal turns around to produce Sesame Oil

By NY Staff  

Al-Wadi Directorate in Marib province is famous in cultivating many seasonal agricultural crops such as sesame or “Algelgel, Algeljlan” as it is called in the local dialect in Yemen.

The importance of sesame increases by extracting the natural oil from it and then using it for cooking or as a natural remedy. Sesame oil is famous in Yemen because it is natural without any added chemicals or pesticides found in sesame imported from abroad.

In the Al-Wadi Directorate, people extract sesame oil from sesame seeds in a place called a Massara, usually inherited from grandparents, and they are still using the same methods that they have been using for centuries.

In the Massara, which is a traditional room, they use a camel to power a small gristmill for oil extraction. The camel is adorned with a pair of blinders over its eyes. It blindly circumambulates a large carved rock, whose foundation extends deep into the earth. These rocks are up to hundreds of years old and very important in the production of natural oil.

Through eight hours of circumambulation, approximately 5 liters of oil are extracted and ready for use, as well as some other components that are used as food for cattle and other needs.

Salem Alqrina, the owner of one of oil presses in Al-Wadi Directorate, said that he and his family are working in this profession for decades. He describes it as the lucrative profession.

Alqrina still uses the camel in his Massara, unlike many of people Al-Wadi Directorate who switched from using camels to using modern electric tools that facilitate their work.

“I still use camels because the extracted oil by camel is better than that extracted by electric tools. It has a distinctive taste,” he explained.

 Alqrina emphasized that customers prefer extracted oil using camels and they still come to his Massara for that reason.

In addition to the good taste, Alqrina added that the camel is cheaper than modern tools and is guaranteed to work, especially with the ongoing power outages.

However, Alqrina said that process of importing oil and grain from abroad significantly affects their profession, pointing out that some oil presses are closed due to imports from abroad.

Abdel Dayem Drckm, an owner of another oil press, also suffers from importing grains and oils from abroad. He demanded the government to encourage the farmers to grow sesame and stop importing it from abroad.

Drckm added that the country can invest in this profession through exporting oil abroad to support the country’s economy, pointing out that many of their customers buy large amounts of oils which they export to the Gulf countries at exorbitant prices.

Drckm emphasized that the Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities in the country don’t care about this profession. They depend on themselves for providing equipment and buying seeds and pesticides and learning how they are used, the thing which leads to extinction of the profession.