Saudi female beekeeper wins gold medal in prestigious global honey competition

A female Saudi beekeeper is tasting sweet success on the international stage after winning a gold medal for her honey in a prestigious global competition.

Businesswoman Norah Shawi Al-Shimmari, from the Hail region, scooped the accolade for best-quality talah (acacia) honey in the world at the London Honey Awards.

It was the first time the enterprising apiarist had taken part in the awards scheme, and she told Arab News: “Winning was one of my biggest wishes for this year. I could not believe it at first, to win is a wonderful feeling.

“It gave me a great boost to keep the good work up and participate in more competitions.”

The annual London Honey Awards competitions aim to inform honey-growers, producers, beekeepers, processors, and retailers, who distribute their standardized products legally, to preserve and ameliorate the quality of their branded items by promoting high-quality honey products in all aspects of its use and consumption.

Al-Shimmari is the only female honey farmer in Hail and is known in the Kingdom as “the beekeeper of the north.”

She and two other award winners were recently honored for their achievements by Hail Deputy Gov. Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Muqrin.

It was while exhibiting at an event in Riyadh that she was urged to enter the London Honey Awards. “I was highly encouraged by one of my beekeeper colleagues, and I am so grateful for him and his recommendation and all the help he offered.”

Al-Shimmari runs her business from Al-Khita village, on the outskirts of the city of Hail, and moves her hives on a daily basis to different locations in the area to allow her bees access to colorful and nectar-rich athel, sidr, and acacia flowers.

Acacias are distinguished by their small, often fragrant yellow, and occasionally white, flowers, that have many pollen-producing stamens and a fuzzy appearance.

To win her award, Al-Shimmari’s honey was laboratory checked for humidity levels, sucrose and glucose content, texture, and other factors. Samples were then evaluated by a jury panel, with each judge conducting an organoleptic taste analysis and marking the product based on criteria such as appearance, odor, and flavor.

Up against competitors from around the world including the UK, China, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries, she said: “The competition was huge, and my winning was a surprise and a shock.

“Beekeeping is about persistence and being eager to produce distinguished honey. However, my goals do not stop here. I would like to walk a steady journey; I am still dreaming of more success and achievements. This is just the beginning. I want to see my products everywhere worldwide.”

Al-Shimmari has been in the honey trade for more than five years producing 11 different products, and she recently launched a skincare line made of organic honey and honeycomb materials.

Last year, she was the only woman among 33 beekeepers who took part in the Hail Honey Festival. The event helps apiarists market their products, while increasing investment opportunities.