Honey from the Inzerki beehive

Ark of taste
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Honey from the Inzerki beehive

Built by the Berber tribes of Souss, north of Agadir, the Inzerki beehive complex dates back to the 16th century and is now considered the largest collective apiary in the world. The presence of a sunny slope which is located at 980 meters above sea level, the stable climate, the abundance of honey plants (thyme, lavender, argan trees, palms) and the ease of monitoring, have prompted the beekeepers of the region to choose this site for the construction of a collective apiary, which would allow the hives to remain in one place. The structure as a whole is a large wooden building made up of many superimposed cells.

Traditional hives are shaped like a long cylinder, built with intertwined reeds or tree bark. The ends are closed with a round wooden lid, in which a small hole is made to allow the bees to enter and exit. Each cylinder is placed in a staggered order inside the cells, to avoid the overlapping of the hive exits and the fights between the bees. When the hives are full of honey, the beekeeper opens the front and immediately seals the cell with dry mud or cow dung.

In the Souss region, two subspecies of bees are bred, the black bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) and the Saharan bee (Apis mellifera sahariensis) which have crossed to create a new subspecies which is specific to the region. The black bee is known for its aggression, while the Saharan bee is known for its gentle nature. The hybridisation of the bees has combined their characteristics: the bee from the Inzerki area is very resistant and very prolific, but less aggressive than the black bee.

Honey, produced from March to October, tastes different according to the flowers in bloom. In spring the bees forage almond trees, cacti, oranges and palm blossoms, so the honey is quite clear and sweet. In summer they collect nectar from thyme and thistle flowers, and the honey is orange and fruity. In autumn the bees visit the euphorbias, eucalyptus and carob flowers, so the honey has a brown colour and an intense flavour.

In 1990 and 1996, heavy floods damaged the apiary. Many huts have collapsed, resulting in the site being abandoned and replaced with modern, easy-to-move beehives. Despite attempts to rehabilitate it, also thanks to the recognition by UNESCO in 2006, the apiary has not yet recovered its ancient levels of activity. The new buildings do not correspond to the original model: originally cedar wood was used, it was durable and did not rot, however it is very expensive. The repairs were made using eucalyptus wood, which is less solid and less resistant to being worn down over time.

Honey is particularly important in this region and the tradition of its production dates back several centuries. It is eaten plain or used, together with almonds and argan oil, as an ingredient in a cream called “amlou”. Honey is often used in conjunction with medicinal herbs to treat some infections.

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Production area:Inzerki Village

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Nominated by:Chef Jean-Claude Olry, Villa des Orangers, Relais & Châteaux