The Surprising Pros and Less-Surprising Cons of Drinking Camel Pee

Questioning a totally sensible World Health Organization warning.

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Today the World Health Organization issued a statement about an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that has already killed seven people, infected 95, and led to the quarantine of more than 2,500 people in South Korea. The WHO suspects it is the largest outbreak of MERS since the disease was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The WHO also urged you to consider taking a major step here, if you don’t want to catch MERS: Don’t drink camel urine.

Why, you say, would this apply to me? I already don’t drink camel urine. You may in fact be surprised to learn that many people do drink camel urine, in some parts of the Middle East. The WHO thinks curbing the practice may help to contain the spread of MERS.

Under the scenario of drink no pee / don’t catch MERS, there seems to be an obvious win-win in not drinking the pee. But we’d rather take a more balanced approach. Maybe you … should be drinking camel piss?


1. It’ll cure what ails you

The Prophet Mohammed once informed his followers that washing down your breakfast with some yellow drink will cure diseases. Got a headache, backache? Reach for a little piss if the only thing you’ve got is your trusty camel and you can’t make it to Duane Reade on time. It’ll, uh, get you over the hump.

2. It adds a kick to any recipe

A few years ago this guy from VICE had a little sample of camel urine along with milk, and said, “Getting rid of the musky aftertaste that takes over your mouth after the first sip is impossible,” but then admitted, “It didn’t make me feel any healthier, but it didn’t make me sicker either.” Add a spritz of camel pee to your cocktail as a treat if you don’t want to be healthy and you don’t want to be sick.

3. What else are you going to quaff in the desert?

The desert is known for its limited drink selection. No bodegas for you to grab some Red Bulls and get extreme among the dunes, so you might as well sip on camel pee. Tastes about the same.


1. Real good chance it’ll give you MERS

Exact transmission points remain unclear, but the virus’s origins are thought to be from bats, which then probably give it to camels. It’s not a pretty scene when you follow that viral chain back to the camel’s bladder. Might wanna listen to the World Health Organization on this one. Not least because it’ll keep you from drinking camel pee.

2. You’ll always been the guy who drank camel pee and got MERS

A lot of people subscribe to the old idiom “When in Rome,” but I don’t see any Romans drinking animal pee anywhere nowadays. Just because it’s the local custom doesn’t mean you should try it, especially if that local custom runs the risk of giving you a deadly camel pee virus. Even if you survive MERS, your reputation won’t.

3.  You’ll embarrass your mom

“Where did Sean go for vacation?” your mom’s best friend will ask. “Oh, he went to the Middle East somewhere, and got into some trouble,” she’ll reply. “Wait, how?” the friend will inquire. “Um, well,” says your poor hesitant mother, “He drank the urine of a camel and got a virus called MERS.” “Oh, dear,” replies her friend, before chugging the rest of her chardonnay and motioning to the waiter for the check. 

Make sure this conversation never happens and you don’t embarrass your mom by drinking camel pee. Because you totally know how your friends will “pour one out” for you at your gravesite. 

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