• Fair Trader

An Evening with Ryad Alsous

Updated: Apr 2, 2020

On Wednesday 12 June 2019 we joined a capacity audience at Fair Trader, to spend the evening with Buzz Project bee specialist Dr Ryad Alsous.

The stunning bee-themed window by local artist Paul Brennan set the scene for Ryad, who believes we have much to learn from the way bees work together and support each other. Each person brought along a small empty jar, and looked forward to filling it with the creation of the evening – a natural, nourishing moisturiser made from bee products

We had first met Ryad in September 2017 when he took part in our Taste of Honey event, sharing his story of working with refugees and asylum-seekers to teach bee-keeping skills and build hives. A respected academic, Ryad was Professor of Agriculture at the University of Damascus. He had several hundred hives and an outstanding reputation for research in this field.

In Syria he also produced a range of skincare products, and is keen to establish production in the UK. We hope to share our knowledge of setting up a co-operative, and support him in this venture. We are hugely privileged that he gave of his time to share some of the secrets with us! The evening started with Ryad explaining the importance of using pure, organic ingredients to create products to hydrate the skin. We learned about the role of key materials and their properties – to protect the skin from bacteria, reduce inflammation, keep the skin hydrated and nourish the skin to reduce our wrinkles. We also heard about the way the proportion of water-based to oil-based elements influences the viscosity of the product, including his preferred 60/40 ratio.

Ryad has a love of chemistry and this shone through in his appraisal of each component, and its contribution to the product. In summary, these included:

• Yellow beeswax from the honeycomb of the bee

• Organic coconut oil, produced without bleaching or refining

• Olive oil – using Palestinian Zaytoun brand – the world’s first Fairtrade Olive Oil – available to buy from us online and in store

• Grapeseed oil, from thousands of crushed, tiny seeds

• Stearic acid wax – derived from vegetable oils

• De-ionised/distilled water

• 100% pure lanolin, derived from wool

• Alcohol

• Essential oils, including chamomile, lavender and lemon

… and of course, honey and propolis from Ryad’s beloved bees. Propolis is a black ‘jelly’ produced by honey bees from a variety of plants.

This summer Ryad hopes to have sufficient honey to sell at Fair Trader; we look forward to stocking this very special product.

Throughout the evening we got an insight into Ryad’s passion for our indigenous, black bees – who not only will work at low temperatures, but also go out in the rain! He is building from his initial hive – donated by a lady bee-keeper.

APPEAL - Ryad is seeking one or more offers of garden space (on, or near a bus route from Huddersfield) where he can place hives safely and gain access weekly to look after them. Please contact us if you may be able to help.

After a refreshment break with delicious cakes made by Fair Trader volunteers, Ryad began to work his magic on the ingredients. Two bowls – one for water-based, the other for oil-based components.

Weighing and measuring. Heating and watching the propolis become soft and sticky. Combining. Stirring …. all the while explaining the key importance of aspects of the process. At this stage Ryad’s knowledge, experience and skill became very apparent – with the addition of a dollop of wax or a slug of boiled water – to ensure a perfect consistency. Rather like watching a skilled chef minutely measure ingredients then use the senses to top up the mixture!

Once the alchemy was complete, we offered up our jars and pots to be filled. We learned that we should use all skin products sparingly, especially around all sensitive areas, such as the eyes and behind the ears. This is necessary as ingredients pass through the skin and are absorbed by the blood stream. Storage in a refrigerator is recommended, to slow down degradation of the product.

Also, when buying commercially available products, look at the list of ingredients; many products on sale contain harmful/dubious ingredients.

• Choose organic

• Avoid products containing derivatives of benzene or petroleum

• Where perfumed, choose plant-based, organic fragrances ie not synthetic

Sarah Yaccabe, buyer at Fair Trader, has assembled a small but wonderful range of natural body and bath products, available in the Holmfirth shop.

The evening was filmed by former Fair Trader volunteer Jonathan Woodward and fellow film-maker Oli Roberts as part of a documentary they are currently creating on Ryad. We look forward to seeing the finished product.

It is impossible not to be moved by a man who has fled the violence in Syria, lost his job, his factories and – much more – his friends, family and beloved bees. Yet, he emanates warmth, love and compassion and has grown to be fond of Huddersfield and even the climate!

In Ryad’s words,

Bees mean to me – peace.

Bees mean to me – safety.

Bees mean to me – everything.

Without bees there is no human life.

Kathryn Sheard, June 2019

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