Natural ingredients key to Jerash’s famous dairy produce

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Among Jordanians, the city of Jerash is famous for its high quality, fresh dairy products, which are still prepared using traditional methods. 

Visitors to Jerash often purchase Labaneh Jarashiyeh, a kind of strained yoghurt, which is a signature product of the city, 48km north of Amman. 

Around 50 shops in Jerash and its surrounding villages sell dairy products to locals and visitors from across the Kingdom.

Some also supply supermarkets and shopping malls in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid. 

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Shop owner Um Jihad started selling dairy products in a tent on the side of the road some 44 years ago, using the traditional goatskin bag to strain the milk. 

“Working day and night, I improved my business and sent my children to schools and universities. One of my sons became an engineer and my two daughters studied English literature,” she told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

A pioneer in the field, Um Jihad has received numerous awards, including the Citi and Jordan River Foundation Award for Micro-Entrepreneurs in 2007 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania.

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Asked about the use of additives in dairy products that some manufacturers use to improve the taste, Um Jihad said she prefers to stick to traditional methods. 

“I still don’t know what those additives are and I don’t want to know, because I prefer to stick to the honest traditional method, and I use only natural ingredients,” she said.

Yousef Zreiqat, a community development expert, said Jerash’s reputation for its dairy produce could be due to its geographical features, which vary from cold mountains to deep valleys.

The area gets around 600ml of rainwater annually, and around 250 grazing days, Zreiqat said. 

These are ideal conditions offering long seasons for producing fresh goat and sheep milk to make yoghurts and cheeses, he added. 

Jerash is close to Jordan’s biggest cities, within easy reach of Amman, Irbid, Zarqa, Ajloun and Mafraq, which helps the dairy trade, the expert said. 

The city’s expertise and reputation in the dairy sector encourages producers to keep their standards high, Zreiqat said. 

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Dairy producer Alaa Alhares told The Jordan Times that the city’s reputation rests on its use of natural ingredients. 

“Credibility in the production process by using only natural ingredients, not using additives, and honesty in dealing with buyers have created loyal customers,” Alhares said.