‘One cow produces 24 tonnes of milk a day’
In West Bank hamlet Bani Naim, animal farms covered by mesh screens can be seen along the narrow streets. The stalls that sell fresh fruit and veg are lined up in rows. In the middle of the main main street, my friend George comes out of his shop with a large plastic bag full of cool items. He pops a few things into his cart. I tell him there is no need to stop, and take one of the cases. We walk to the end of the road and open the golden brown case.
The place is all smiles and jubilation. There are rows of neatly stacked crates of goat cheese, washed down with a copious amount of white wine and honey. Small, battered bottles of another variety of cheese are neatly arranged on top of each crate.
What I liked most about the cheese was the simple and elegant design: a faint pattern of stripes running along the sides with a pair of scissors in the centre. It reminds me of Popeye and Ursula Herzer of those famous print books. The dried fig and wild herbs, which they use to flavour the cheese, look slightly rich; the chestnut, which they taste for flavour, is sweet. Despite being relatively new to the market, the villagers provide different varieties of cheese at cost, and offer the best variety of dips, slushies and shakes for an additional fee. There are also large freezers across the market where people buy frozen milk.
Arab grape- and apple-flavoured cheese wraps from Soham Creamery
There are many other options: creamery has made a huge success out of Turkish or Turkish-style shaved ice; Iraqi Pani is excellent for wrap and yogurt soda; Soham Creamery has made waves with grape- and apple-flavoured cheese wraps.
The shop is unassuming, but it is not typical of all the dairy shops in the region. However, all the dairy shop sell around 400 different kinds of cheese and cheese graters and butter knives – and to this day, it is a special charm. On a hot day, it is unsurprising how thin the pasteurised dairy is but I would advise sticking to the local.
Where to buy:
• Dairy shop, Wadi Abdel Ilah, Soham West Bank, +963 91 1979
• Soham Creamery (a source of barrel- and reed-steamed and rinsed-off milk) – Bab Malik Street, Soham West Bank, +963 91 2065, sahamcreamery.com
• Crown Meat & Seafood – Bab Malik Street, Soham West Bank, +963 91 22768