Friends and family initially mocked one Jordanian family’s new venture of making soap from donkey milk, but now, a year on, the company is cleaning up as customers bray for more.
Atan Donkey Milk Soaps produces 100 percent natural soaps at a small manufacturing workshop in Amman from the milk of 12 donkeys on its farm in Madaba, 35km southwest of the Jordanian capital.
Although other regions around the Mediterranean produce soap from donkey milk, this is a first for Jordan.
“At the beginning, many laughed at the idea,” said Emad Attiyat, 32, cofounder of the project, which takes its name from atan, the Arabic word for a female donkey, or jenny.
Skeptics said that they “would use nothing on [their] skin related to donkeys,” added Attiyat, who has a degree in management information systems.
However, “after trying the soap, all that changed, and now we produce more than 4,500 bars of soap per month to meet the demand,” he said, standing next to the barn where the animals are housed.
Donkey’s milk is said to be rich in minerals and proteins that can help moisturize the skin.
It also has high levels of antioxidants, which protect the skin from sunlight and the effects of aging, according to beauticians.
One liter of milk produces about 30 bars of soap, but milking each female is a painstaking task done with the help of a hand-held electronic pump.
Each donkey has to be milked three times per day to get about 1 liter of fluid, while leaving about 1 liter for its foal. The milk is frozen and then transferred to the company’s workshop in Amman to be turned into soap.
Research has shown that donkey milk can “help regenerate skin cells, reduce signs of aging and help cure some skin diseases such as eczema,” Attiyat’s mother, Salma al-Zubi, said.
She was the one who came up with the idea of trying the venture.
An environmental advocate and retired teacher, she said that donkey’s milk soap contributes to balancing the skin’s moisture levels and removing wrinkles, as well as eliminating spots and acne.
In her 60s, she helps mix ingredients in a large steel bowl at the Amman workshop, wearing a white mask and blue gloves.
Olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil and shea butter are added to the donkey milk to produce the soap that is sold on their Facebook page.
A small 85g bar of soap costs 8 Jordanian dinars (US$11), while a large 125g bar of soap is sold for 10 dinars.
One liter of donkey’s milk in Europe can cost as much as 60 euros (US$71), and is used in making some expensive cheeses.
Attiyat is hoping to expand production to face and hand creams and lotions.
The milk is “rich in proteins and minerals, including magnesium, copper, sodium, manganese, zinc, calcium and iron — all of which are very important for the skin,” said dietician Susanna Haddad, who works at a beauty center in Amman.
Loyal customer, lawyer Esraa al-Turk, 48, said that she was attracted to the donkey milk soap because it is a natural product.
“I take care of my skin,” she said, adding that although she did not wear much makeup, she had now “become more daring to leave home without any cosmetics on my face.”
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