Desert daughter
Content submitted by – Lili
Submited Date : 28/06/2018
Mariam Abu Rkeek

My name is Mariam Abu Rkeek and this is my story…I am from the village of Tel Beer Sheva, in Negev. I was born in my grandmother’s tent to a very large family of 20 brothers and sisters. Growing up, I remember watching how my grandmother made natural beauty products and medicines from the natural sources available to her. I remember how she helped the people who came to her for treatment. I always had a dream to do something different from my grandmother. When I completed my studies in Tel Sheva I received a scholarship to travel to the UK to study a BA program. Being in Britain showed me that the world today has an awareness and knowledge about protecting the environment. I began to compare modern living and my life. I started to compare what I knew about the old traditions and saw how the modern world is searching for natural cures, beauty and well-being. This all made me think differently – I understood that the old ways could actually be preserved and help modern day living. As the world is changing, many look to the old ways as solutions in tune with society’s needs. So, when I returned to the Negev, I made a decision that I was going to preserve the traditions of my grandmother. I started making soaps from olive oil and camel’s milk, and other wild desert herbs. I also started to produce aromatic oils. I sold my products to local women, as well as to tourists who would visit Israel and wanted to try my natural products or take them home as gifts. It wasn’t easy for me as a woman coming from a rather conservative society. In my community, people would look at me as someone who didn’t have the ability to do such a project. No one took me seriously. For seven years I was under a lot of pressure from my family to give up my dream, especially because I chose to make business instead of marrying and raising a family. I held my strong belief that I could succeed. My small business is now ten years old. At the beginning it was only my closest sisters and neighbors who gave me some support and helped me get started. Slowly but surely, I invested in this project and turned it into a real business. My dream is to turn my small business into an international beauty company. This will give me the opportunity to employ many more women from my community. Today, at Desert Daughter I work with five other women who are the treasure of this business. In my village, there is a lack of jobs available to women, so as my business grows I will be able to employ more and more women from the village and help them provide for their families. I hope that Desert Daughter will tell a story that can be an inspiration to women all over the world. If I, a Bedouin woman without any means or resources can start a successful business, then I believe anyone, anywhere in the world can succeed. I hope my story will be useful to others and inspire them. I hope others will follow my example of preserving heritage and traditions and at the same time, offering solutions for employment. Life is not worth living without a dream.