Camel dairy ready to milk Europe
The camels know the drill by heart.
Just after dawn, they file on their own, always in groups of 12, into metal stalls for milking. Workers attach automated pumps. The milk flows into a system of chilled pipes that empty into a sealed metal vat.
And the next stop could be markets in Europe, and possibly beyond, under ambitious plans backed by Dubai's ruler to expand the reach of the playfully eccentric brand name Camelicious.
European Union health regulators cleared the United Arab Emirates last month to become the first major exporter of camel milk products to the 27-nation bloc.
If onsite inspections and other EU tests pass muster, the first batches of powdered camel milk could be heading to European shelves next year, and at some point possibly to Asia and America.
"We know this isn't what you'd call a mainstream product in the West," said David Wernery, legal adviser for the Camelicious brand, whose parent company goes by the more staid name of Emirates Industry for Camel Milk & Products.
"We're thinking about health food stores and alternative markets. It's probably going to be a niche thing at first."
It would be something of a coming-out party for the small but passionate community that describes camel milk in awed tones.
It has at least three times more vitamin C than cow's milk and is considered an alternative for the lactose-intolerant.
Researchers have studied possible roles for camel milk in fighting bacteria, tumours and diabetes, as well as traditional uses such as a treatment for liver disease across the range from central Asia to North Africa.