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10 Food Taboos Around the World (Slideshow)

10 Food Taboos Around the World (Slideshow)

From cultural to etiquette, there are some interesting definite “don’ts” when it comes to food

© Monkey Business Images/Dreamstime.com

Papua New Guinea Taboos

For women tribal members in Papua New Guinea in the middle of their menstrual cycles, there are a number of food taboos they must adhere too. Since they are thought to be in a “sickly” state, women are not allowed fresh meat, juicy bananas or any red colored fruits. Furthermore, anyone who eats the food a menstruating woman cooks or even steps over, that person, — particularly the husband — will become "ill with cough and possibly die.” And while older women are also not supposed to eat fish eggs when pregnant, unmarried young men will receive the best food and do not have many food taboos.

Brazilian Taboos

Seafood is a staple of the Brazilian diet. But not all fish are enjoyed by all Brazilians. Predatory fish, like piranhas and bottom feeders are considered taboo for the ill to eat. Those who are ill though, are recommended to eat fish that are omnivorous.

Chinese Taboos

If you happen to be traveling to China, minding your chopsticks is the same as minding your manners. After finishing a meal at a restaurant, do not leave your chopsticks sticking up in the left-over rice at the bottom of your bowl. That practice is employed when families offer a meal to their ancestors' ghosts at family shrines but Chinese people believe that doing so in a restaurant would plague the proprietor with a terrible curse.

Japanese Taboos

Sharing is not necessarily caring in Japanese culture. If you do plan on sharing your meal, you must place the tasting morsel on a small plate and then pass it to the recipient. Why? Because passing food from chopstick to chopstick irreverently references the Japanese custom of sifting through a family member’s cremated ashes to handle their loved ones’ bones.

Russian Taboos

Old world traditions are very much alive in Russia when it comes to traditional dating. If you are hoping to court a lady at a restaurant, do not expect to go dutch. As the initiator of the date, you are expected to pay for everything, as most Russian women won’t even bring their wallets on a formal date.

Indian Taboos

Food taboos in India vary according to religion. For those that practice Hinduism, eating a cow in prohibited, as it is thought of as God’s useful gift to mankind since it provides dairy products and is the basis for other products. Many Islamic and Muslim families not only avoid pork for religious reasons, they feel that pigs are bred in absolutely revolting conditions and are not worthy of consumption.

Italian Taboos

Whether you are from an Italian-American family or have been lucky enough to visit Italy yourself, you know that there is no shortage of food. Despite the fact that Italians will feed you until you are beyond full, it is considered rude to accept the first offering of food. Politely decline at first, but when offered a second time — which you likely will be — feel free to accept

Jamaican Taboos

When it comes to child rearing, there are some definite food-related taboos Jamaican people believe in. It is believed that if children eat chicken before they learn to speak, they will never talk. Eating half an egg will make the child grow into a thief and drinking milk from a baby bottle will turn them into a drunkard.

Nigerian Taboos

Much like the Jamaican taboos, many Nigerians’ taboos revolve around children. While they also believe children who eat eggs will turn into thieves, they also feel particularly strongly about coconut milk. Another widely held belief is that children who drink this type of milk will make them unintelligent.

French Taboos

Dining in France is an experience. The taboos associated with French dining have more to do with manners than with cultural beliefs. It is considered rude to rush through a meal or hurry your order along. You also never want to ask for a doggy-bag or leave food on your plate, the implication being that you did not enjoy your meal.


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”


'Men said we were immoral': the aphrodisiacs challenging taboos

W hen Amra Mansur was working as a makeup artist in Abuja, while she studied law, she would overhear conversations between would-be brides and older relatives about how to please their men in the bedroom.

The older, mostly female relatives would recite aphrodisiac recipes that involved ingredients like fenugreek, dates, honey, watermelon and the fruit silky kola.

After finishing her studies, Mansur decided she didn’t want to be a lawyer, and the bridal makeup industry was getting too crowded. “I needed to dive into something new, and then I thought – why not Kayan Mata?”

“Kayan Mata” refers to the aphrodisiacs made of herbs, roots, spices, seeds and fruit that have been used for centuries by women from northern Nigeria. Though they were originally used to prepare brides for marriage, to ensure a healthy sex life, the aphrodisiacs are becoming increasingly popular among all women across the country. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“All my ingredients are natural. Honey is one of the ingredients. We have spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seeds, chilli peppers, dates and sugarcane. We have some herbs, roots, powders we get in Nigeria, especially around Zamfara, Gusau and Sokoto,” she says. “These herbs have to come in their natural leafy form, so we see what we are buying.”

Not only is Kayan Mata becoming a thriving business, it is challenging the taboos around sex and marriage, and women’s role in society.

Many northern women are expected to fulfil the conservative roles of wife and mother. “The image we have is not to be sexual tigresses – we are supposed to be demure,” says journalist Fatima Umar. Speaking about sex openly is not expected of women.

“At first, I thought this is going to be so controversial because even though we northern women take it, I wasn’t married at the time,” says Mansur, who added her own family recipes to those gathered during her time making up brides, before opening her business. “It was a taboo for someone who isn’t married to be selling Kayan Mata openly. Even when you are married and selling Kayan Mata, there is this stigma that is attached to it.”

Umar remembers the backlash she faced after airing a four-part radio programme she produced and presented.

“The backlash was from men who said we were being immoral by giving women a platform to talk about sexuality,” she says. In two of the episodes, women talked about being married to a man who didn’t satisfy them. “To hear a Hausa woman in rural Kano say these things – we thought it was ground-breaking journalism, but it became such an issue that I had to switch off my phone because I was getting all sorts of talk that this is an abomination.”

Beyond the backlash, Umar is excited and fascinated by the new wave of Kayan Mata and how it is opening conversations around female pleasure within communities and social groups. “Hopefully in the next 10 to 15 years, we will see more open public conversations.”

One myth that needs to be debunked is the mysticism around Kayan Mata that compares it to love potions and charms used by women to bewitch husbands or lure them away from their wives.

“Kayan Mata is sex food. That’s what I call them,” says Mansu. “You take this food and they make you wet and sweet. That is just their aim, not to make you bewitch your husband. If you are like that in bed and then he enjoys you, if he does any nice thing afterwards, then that is on him.”

Social media platforms like Instagram have been crucial to increasing the popularity of these local aphrodisiacs, giving room for more open conversations around sex and pleasure as well as financially empowering many northern women.

Although it’s difficult to put a value on the Kayan Mata market, Umar says: “It is definitely empowering women as they are employing people whom they pay well. There are people back home who source the herbs and have been able to get better opportunities for themselves and families because of this boom.”

Hauwa Sule Yaro was three years into running her business when her 17-year-old daughter convinced her to open an Instagram page. Within weeks she says orders started flooding in from places like the US, UK, Istanbul, Cyprus and Dubai. However, she explains that coming from a conservative community still means that she isn’t permitted to discuss sex explicitly on her social media.

“A lot of people think talking about sex in public is not a good thing in Nigeria. People look at you as someone who is wayward or irresponsible, so people hide a lot when it comes to sex or using aphrodisiac products.”

Much of the history around the use of Kayan Mata centres around men as the principal recipients of sexual pleasure, a myth Mansur is keen to bust.

“When I started, all the women were like, ‘Give me something that is going to drive my husband crazy! Give me something that he will enjoy.’ And then they say, ‘I don’t care if I have fun, as long as he does.’”

As these requests continued, she believed that women needed a change in mindset and decided to teach them about embracing their own sexual pleasure.

“I am so proud of myself because now, I have women who actually enjoy having sex. I have women who have had orgasms and climax because a lot of women didn’t know what orgasms were.”