Arabian Traveller's Observations on Bedouin Food

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by Philip Iddison

badwiyyin - dwellers in the dessert

These characteristics of the land, reacting on the inhabitants, render them in great part of unsettled predatory habit, intensely individualistic, jealous of the secrets of water and pasture which barely make life possible, and proud of an exclusive liberty, which has never been long infringed. -- D.G. Hogarth (1904)[1]

Arabia attracted a sparse number of adventurous travellers from the developing European countries from the sixteenth century to the middle of the present century.  Their published accounts identify various attractions ranging through exploration, scientific studies, political or religious intrigue to early ethnographic studies.  The latter often concentrated on the bedouin, a case of the traveller observing his fellow traveller.  The accounts record a consistent view of the Arabian character and society, epitomised by the harsh realities of bedouin life and the more urbane life of towns and villages. There are passing references to the food of the local people and that introduced by the travellers but this is usually a subsidiary element of the account, subordinated to the traveller’s tales of extreme hardship, the mercurial character of the bedouin and a fascination with their social customs. The latter were characterised by the two extremes of the rules of hospitality and the rules of raiding. Tales of the coffee hearth are common and this key element of bedouin life is remarkably consistent through the centuries of travel.

Practically every part of the Arabian peninsula, an area of some 3.2 million square kilometres, was occupied to some degree, from the well established trade and holy cities such as Jeddah, Mecca and Medina to the nomadic herdsmen of the vast sand deserts such as the Rub al Khali.  However the bedouin seemed to dominate the Western perception of Arabia. This landmass included a variety of human habitations.  Oasis villages and towns were scattered over the sand and stony deserts of the inland plateau. In the mountains on the southern and western fringes, altitude tempered heat, rain was more plentiful and a much more varied agriculture was possible.  The Omani mountains sheltered groves of walnut and fruit trees and Yemeni valleys yielded sorghum and coffee. The long coastline had numerous trading ports and fishing villages where a rich haul of seafood was made [2].

Despite failing to conquer Arabia the Romans divided it into two provinces, arabia felix and arabia deserta. Arabia felix occupied the whole of the peninsula and effectively controlled the spice trade from the Indies in the period before reliable seaborn commerce became established. It was also the only source of frankincense. Arabia deserta was the northern, Syrian desert [3].

From the start of the Islamic era in September 622, Arabia was practically inaccessible to non-Muslims.  The few Westerners who did penetrate Arabia either posed as Muslims or travelled with trepidation as the population were frequently hostile to kaffirs (unbelievers).

The earliest account by a European traveller to the Arabian interior was by Ludovico di Varthema, a Bolognese adventurer who accompanied the haj caravan from Damascus in 1503 and who reached Yemen where he noted fair orchards, an abundance of vines, fat-tailed sheep and the spice trade.

The discovery of coffee in Yemen was to attract interest from all the main trading nations from the end of the sixteenth century, but trading houses and their European settlers remained in the coastal towns such as Jeddah, Aden and Mokha.

The first party with any aspirations to a scientific assessment of the interior was not mounted until 1762. Carsten Niebuhr was the only member of the party of six to return and his account was published in 1772.  The party travelled in Yemen, only reaching as far inland as Sana but amongst many observations gave a detailed description of coffee cultivation which was then supplying the coffee houses of Europe.

The first crossing of Arabia was made by accident rather than by design and yielded little apart from confirmation of the stark terrain. Thereafter a number of travellers made significant journeys into the interior desserts and started to flesh out the lives of the bedouin.  Charles Doughty (travelling 1876-8) provides a substantial amount of anecdotal information on the food culture of the bedouin.  He travelled extensively in the Hejaz and Nejd, spending periods in oasis towns such as Hail and Kheybar as well as travelling with the bedouin. His observations establish a strong connection between the requirement of the bedouin to travel to find pasture for their flocks which were their economic wealth and sustenance and their frequent visits to the oasis towns which often extended into short periods of residence.

By the early twentieth century the only unexplored area of significance was the great sand dessert called the Rub al Khali in the south-western portion of the peninsula and it was to yield little additional information on the food of the region when it was finally crossed in 1931 by Bertram Thomas.

With the advent of oil wealth, bedouin life changed dramatically from an austere existence in exacting terrain to nationality in new wealthy nations and a transition into the modern world in a single generation.

The Bedouin

Several travellers' reports of the bedouin culinary regime are influenced by the rules of hospitality. If the host were expansive or wanted to impress, the quality and quantity of food offered would be lavish and hence create an unrealistic impression of routine consumption, not dissimilar to the situation in other cultures. However there would often be no backup supplies and playing host could seriously deprive the dependants of the host of their meagre rations or seriously deplete the host's flock. The dish of boiled mutton or camel calf served on rice or a "mess of wheat" [4], mansaf, would normally only be a festival or major family event dish for the bedouin [5]. Doughty, Thomas and Thesiger who travelled extensively with small parties of bedouin record a far more basic and monotonous diet. Commonly it was so ordinary that it did not warrant a mention in their journals.

Light breakfasts and occasional impromptu meals of game or for hospitality during the day are recounted but the main meal was usually taken at the end of the day, after the evening milking.

Bedouin culinary requirements ranged from the need to sustain a small group travelling independantly, probably with grazing flocks, to the provision for large tribal groups who might be settled in one area for several weeks. Access to fresh provisions might be close at hand in a nearby oasis or could be several days march away.

Thus bread, 'abud, which was a staple, would be the simple mixing of flour with precious water from the waterskin (girbeh) to prepare dough to be cooked in the embers of the fire for wandering herdsmen. In a tribal encampment large quantities of shirak or rukak (thin unleavened bread) would be prepared and cooked on a saj (convex metal sheet), over a fire.

Small game was simply thrown on the fire to cook in its fur and was eaten in its entirety. On the other hand a butchered beast for a feast in a large camp would be cooked in a jidda or qidr (large stewpot) to be served with wheat or rice [6] and liberally drenched with rendered animal fat or molten butter (samn). Wheat is mentioned more in the nineteenth century accounts and seems to have been replaced by rice as the latter became more readily available through trade.

Cooking utensils were simple and robust. The jidda, made of tinned copper [7], came in a variety of sizes, large specimens were required to cook for feasts. It was accompanied by a shallow dish, sahen, for serving food. Wooden bowls and serving dishes were also used. Coffee making required its own utensils described below.

Much cooking was thus an improvised affair, three stones to make a tripod support and a search for dried plant roots in the desert sand or some dried camel dung, jella, for fuel.

With food resources at a premium there was little prospect of regular meals, one meal a day would be adequate and no meal was a common occurence, perhaps a few dry dates and some camel milk sufficing.  A bedouin herdsman could survive during the spring grazing, rabia, with the very barest of possessions. Doughty recounts meeting two young men several days from camp with their milch camels whose sole provisions were a cloak and stick each and one bowl between them so they could milk their camels for food and drink.

Hospitality

Bedouin hospitality made a great impact on Western travellers. The rules varied but the common version required that if anyone appeared at your camp who was not a sworn enemy, you were duty bound to provide at least a minimum of board and lodging for three and one third days.  After that time your guest was required to leave and but was still under your guardianship for a further three days, the time it was believed to take for all the host's food to pass through the guest's body. Frequently a beast would be slaughtered for the first meal, as much to demonstrate the host's wealth and social standing and to uphold tribal honour which was on show on such occasions.  Whilst this meal was being prepared, coffee or some other light refreshment such as dates and buttermilk would be served and the guest would be politely questioned to extract useful information.  These gatherings were strictly male affairs, if women were in the encampment they would be segregated and would prepare the meal, although slaughter and butchery were men's work.

Meals were served on the ground to the guests first. Food was generally eaten speedily.  Once you had taken your fill you would vacate your place at the food to allow someone of lower standing to have his turn. After rinsing your hands you would retire to wait for everyone to finish, after which more coffee would be served. After all the men had eaten any remaining food would be taken to the women and young children.  A host would often abstain from eating, taking a supervisory role to ensure that the hospitality was worthy.

Staples

Bedouin food was dominated by a number of staple items. Apart from water these had to have certain characteristics. They had to be self mobile or at least economical to carry.  They had to be readily preserved in the harsh climate which ranged from freezing [8] on the central uplands in winter to 55o Centigrade shade temperatures in the summer.

Apart from stock and their milk products the staple items were dates, wheat and rice, flour and samn (clarified butter).

Dates, tamr, were of prime importance to survival in the desert.  They were ideal food, readily obtainable as they grew in all the oases, non-perishable, easy to consume, economical to transport, provided excellent nutrition as a balance to the other main dietary constituents and were relatively cheap. Thirty pounds of good dates cost 1 real (then equivalent to 4 shillings) in the 1870's whereas a goat cost 2 reals. Dates were also fodder for camels on a regular basis.

For a few months of the year during the date harvest, the fresh dates from the oases provided a welcome alternative to the the usual fare of dried dates.

"the best stems, upon which hanged with the ripe, the half-ripe purple berries, which thus at the mellowing, and full of sappy sweetness, they call belah; the Arabs account them very wholesome and refreshing." [9]

Ba-theeth, a preserve of parched flour, dried dates and samn, heated together and kneaded into a solid mass was prepared for use on journeys. It had excellent keeping qualities and did not require any further cooking.

Wheat was grown in Arabia in the marginal land where enough winter rain would fall or collect to grow the crop. There are references to burghul but it is not clear whether this is the true par-boiled grain or broken wheat boiled as a starch staple for meals.  Wheat was cooked in a variety of ways including harees, a dish with the consistency of porridge but little of the appeal!

Rice has already been mentioned and there is an interesting aside by Doughty that one of his hosts begged enough water from his guest to cook the rice for the usual mutton meal.

Wheat was ground to flour for bread, hand querns were a possesion of larger Bedouin groups. Barley meal is also mentioned as a bread ingredient and millet was grown in some oases although considered fit only for invalids.  One dessert plant, samhh, yielded grain which could be used for bread, porridge or a version of ba-theeth.

Samn was a major commercial product of the bedouin herds which was sold in the villages and towns. Doughty travelled with a caravan from Aneyza to Medina taking the annual production of 30 tonnes [10] of samn in goatskin bags, each camel carrying about 170 kilos.The samn was prepared by churning either fresh goat or sheep's milk or yoghourt [11] in a skin which was inflated by blowing into it at regular intervals. The fresh butter (zibdeh) was heated with flour and occasionally coriander and cummin. Once the samn had been poured off into the storage skin (goatskin for commerce, dubh skin for personal use), the curds and flour were eaten and not wasted. A family with a modest herd could produce 250 kilos of samn during the winter season, worth £18 at Medina in the 1870's.

Yoghourt, leban, was also prepared and was drained and salted to make a sun-dried food for storage, mereesy or jamid.  Initially like a cheese, which is mentioned by several travellers, the drained yoghourt eventually becomes rock hard and well deserves its description by Doughty as "milk shards".  It was reconstituted by pounding in a mortar and mixing with water or sieving into hot water. As a travellers food it could be gnawed in its natural state.

Drinks

Water was a precious commodity. Throughout the interior it was only dependably found at some waterholes and at various springs associated with oases.  There are no rivers in Arabia.  On the rare occasions when a wadi was in spate due to heavy rain, the flow could be disastrous in its power and was likely to run for a day or two at most. With luck it would leave a few pools of water and would raise water levels in adjacent wells for a few months. There were only limited technical means of recovering ground water, the haddaj and suany or draw well driven by a camel or ox was the practical limit of mechanisation. Some permanent waterholes were 60 feet deep and required considerable effort to draw water with bucket and rope. If a large camel herd or caravan had to be watered the bedouin would work in relays for several hours, often with considerable fear of attack if there were ghrazzu (raiding parties) known to be in the vicinity.

The quality of the water was often poor.  At frequently used waterholes several travellers noted the contamination of the water with urea percolating into the water source from the camel urine concentrated around the waterhole.  Doughty comments on many sub-standard supplies "brackish water ...thick well water full of old wafted camel droppings......tasting like alum.....mawkish water causing illness in my companions......salty bitter water.....water full of wriggling white vermin drunk through the lap of the kerchief.....muddy puddle water...".  Yet he claimed that he had never been ill from consumption of any of these doubtfull sources.

Coffee, kahwa, was the prime social drink [12]. The ring of coffee pestle on the mortar as the freshly roasted beans were crushed was the signal for men to gather at the coffee tent for the exchange of news and recounting of stories.  Guests were received by the host who would frequently prepare the coffee himself.

"We sat down to drink coffee with the sheykh, Misshel, who would make it himself. This ruler of seven tribes roasted, pounded, boiled and served the cheerful mixture with his own hand. Misshel poured me out but one cup, and to his tribesmen two or three. Because this shrew's deed was in disgrace of my being a Nasrany, I exclaimed, "here is a great sheikh and a little kahwa!"  Thus challenged, Misshel poured me out unwillingly, muttering some word of his fanatical humour".[13]

Coffee was always freshly roasted in a mahmas (roasting spoon) stirred with a maqlab. The roast beans would be cooled in a mabradah, a wooden tray. They were brayed in a mihbash or nijir made of wood, iron or brass.  In some bedouin families the coffee was brewed in a dedicated pot made of clay, medlah. It would be transferred to the classic beaked Arabian coffee pot of tinned copper or brass, dalla and served in small ceramic cups, finjeyn. It was often flavoured with cardamom.

Milk, haleeb, from camel, goat and sheep was consumed, although preference was for camel's milk. Of the three the camel's milk was drunk whole and the other two usually after the butter had been made.  Doughty reports a hierarchy of bedouin views on the relative merits of the three milk sources:

"Camel milk is the best of all sustenance, and the very best is that of the bukkra, the young camel with her first calf, as lightly purgative.
Ewe's milk is very sweet and fattest of all, it is unwholesome to drink whole, it kills people with colic ..... ewe buttermilk should be let sour some while in the semily (butterskin) with other milk, until all are tempered together, and then it is fit to drink.
Goat milk is sweet, it fattens more than strengthens the body."

These observations are borne out by modern analysis of the milk. An appended table compares the main characteristics with cow's milk from tropical breeds. Cattle were kept in the oases but are recorded as being of poor quality.

The dromedary cow has a gestation period of 370 to 375 days and only breeds every second year commencing at four years of age and continuing until 20 or so years of age. Calving is very seasonal coinciding with the winter rains and the presence of good feed stocks. The lactation period varies according to the camel's nutrition but is usually 18 months with yields of 1,000 to 3,000 litres per year and individual milkings up to 5 litres being common. The milk is rich in vitamin C which is of particular benefit to the bedouin who have little access to fresh fruit and vegetables.  The milk diet was however not satisfying in some respects; bedouin complained to Doughty of the "creeping hunger" and begged him for "Damascus kaak (biscuit), it is six weeks since I have chewed anything".

Tea drinking was introduced at a relatively late stage but has become well established. Doughty may be held responsible in part for its introduction as he carried supplies for his own consumption and several times offered it to bedouin who had not tasted it before. They were generally unimpressed with the tea flavour, considering it insubstantial compared to coffee, but did enjoy the sugar [14].

Flocks

Bedouin existence depended on their herds and flocks.  The camel was the supreme possession providing transport for man and his chattels, a mount for raids which would potentially add to his wealth, milk for food and drink, meat, hair and hides and dung for fuel. Camels were wealth and would rarely be slaughtered for meat.  Any camel meat usually came from the slaughter of surplus bull calves or injured or sick beasts. Camels enabled man’s penetration of the extensive desert areas as they are capable of sustained travel in search of pasture with only intermittent water supplies. After the winter rains, rich spring pastures provided enough moisture in the feed to enable camels to survive without access to water.  Contrary to popular conceptions, camels do need regular feed to maintain satisfactory condition but this could be provided by meagre desert plants, some dates or even dried sardines traded up from the coast.

Where daily access to water could be assured, herds of goats and sheep were kept, primarily for milk and meat and also skins, hair and wool to make woven goods. There are references to fresh milk used for human consumption but apart from that dedicated to the rearing of young, samn production seems to have been the prime use.  These herds were effectively tied to the permanent waterholes and oasis villages. Modern bedouin have overcome this handicap by using their four wheel drive vehicles to transport the water to the flocks. This is adding pressure to the limited amount of grazing.

The desert is remarkably fertile.  Many plants are adapted to its demands, halophyte species are salt tolerant and xerophytes are drought resistant.  Most of the seeds show remarkable long-term fertility [15]. A single thunderstorm can bring a flush of green plants which are established in a few days and will last for several months. A few days rain will trigger plant growth and revive dessicated shrubs that will be green for a year or two. The bedouin sought these rare storms in the deep deserts and would remember precisely where rain had fallen in recent months and hence there might be the chance of some pasture for their camels.

The bedouin were not recorded to consume desert plants on any regular basis.  However they were aware of what was edible and would consume them on finding. Many plants were known to have medicinal or veterinary value and are mentioned.  There are several plants which have water storage capabilities in the roots and these were known to the bedouin for emergency use. The dessert truffle, faga, was harvested and eaten.

Apart from the date palm which rarely produces usefull fruit in the true wild state, some trees of the stoney and mountainous dessert produced edible fruit; sidr and haybed [16] are relatives of the jujube and produce significant quantities of edible fruit, nabak and dom. Another palm tree [17] has edible fruit, mish, that will keep for up to a year and are ground up to make a nutritious meal, eaten raw or cooked.

Game

Game formed an important element of bedouin food though it was not available on any regular basis and would at times be an item of last resort, such as the eating of carrion and the prohibited foods (harram rather than halal). The decimation of the game supply by hunting with high power rifles or automatic weapons from four wheel drive vehicles is a phenomenon of the last few decades and is slowly being reversed by a more enlightened view of the natural fauna.

Game was caught in a number of ways.  Hunting salukis and several hawk species have been used for centuries and are a part of bedouin culture just about surviving to the present day.  There are records of large traps in use since Chalcolithic times. They were constructed in the stoney deserts from converging drystone walls with a ditch behind.  Gazelle were driven into the trap by beaters and in leaping over the wall some would be killed by the hunters or break limbs and be caught for slaughter. This illustrates a serious problem concerning game consumption for the strict Muslim, as all meat had to be slaughtered in a prescribed way and the carcase bled [18]. The accounts show some laxity in this requirement, though given human nature it was usually ascribed to a neighbouring tribe with whom relations were not cordial or who were not considered to be true bedouin.

Matchlocks and rifles had become relatively common by the second half of the nineteenth century and were used for hunting.  However their prime purpose was quite clearly for personal security or offensive action against fellow bedouin.  Small game [19] such as jerboa and lizards could be dug out of burrows with a camel stick and some men were fleet enough of foot to run down the larger reptiles such as dubh, the spiney-tailed lizard which can grow to 60 cm long and whose tail is particularly good eating.  Like most reptiles its flesh is likened to rabbit or chicken in taste and consistency.  Sling shots and stones propelled from simple pop guns were also effective weapons in skilled hands.

Certain game had pre-eminent value to the bedouin, associated with the sporting element of the chase and kill.  Houbara bustard was one such soughtafter game-bird taken exclusively with hawks.  The Arabian gazelle, rim and oryx were also esteemed [20]. Conversely some game was not so welcome, gatta, sandgrouse were considered to be poor eating being dry-fleshed birds.  There are several references to the relish with which the bedouin would consume the cud from the stomach of ruminants such as gazelle.

Jarad (locusts) can probably best be considered as game.  There are many references to the consumption of locusts; it seems to have been an item of horrible fascination for many of the European travellers.

"the children bring in gathered locusts, broached upon a twig, and the nomads toast them on the coals; then plucking the scorched members, they break away the head, and the insect body which remains is good meat." [21]

In the nineteenth century locust plagues were still a serious scourge for the Arabians.  Doughty recounts passing a large locust swarm heading for the Teyma oasis from which he had departed with his Bedu companions a few days before. His companions accepted the destruction of the burgeoning date harvest with fatalism.  Several had date gardens at the oasis and realised that they would have few or no dates that year and that they would have to rely on other resources such as their stock.

Whilst locusts were a curse for the farmer, they at least supplied some instant food. They were generally roasted or parched over the fire.  If not consumed immediately the dried flesh could be ground up into meal and stored in a skin to be added to stews at a later date.

Oasis Life

If grazing was adequate near an oasis the bedouin would pitch camp and take a break from the nomadic life.

Many bedouin had land holdings in the oases where they would grow date palms to provide for their travels.  At the date harvest in early autumn they would return to supervise their holdings which were frequently left in the hands of a slave farmer who would take half the crop for his sustenance.  Beneath the date palms fodder could be grown for the flocks and vegetables and fruits cultivated.  Fruits included pomegranate, citron, lime or lemon, grapes, plum, melons and watermelons. Vegetables included cucumbers, carrots, pumpkin, onions, garlic, okra, sorrel, thyme and other fresh green herbs.

The oasis village would have a suq or market. Apart from the basic foods such as samn, rice, wheat, flour and dates, some fresh vegetables and fruits would be on sale and there might be a butcher or someone who was offering cooked food.

Oasis rulers were expected to provide hospitality just as the sheikhs did in the desert. By the end of the nineteenth century these oasis rulers had started to develop political muscle through exacting taxes to pay for soldiers to enforce their new-found power. With the arrival of the internal combustion engine, the camel was soon displaced.  The bedouin economy which was built upon the value of these beasts declined dramatically and many gave up their nomadic ways for good.

The bedouin recorded by Doughty and his fellow travellers in the nineteenth century no longer exist.  Much of their culture has been handed down to their descendants and certainly elements of their food culture can still be identified in the Arabia currently on the threshold of the twenty-first century.

Appendix

Composition of Ruminants Milk

DROMEDARY COW SHEEP GOAT
Constituent Unit Camelus dromedarius Bos indicus Ovis aries Capra hircus
Fat % 2.9-5.5 4-4.8 7 4.9-5
Protein % 2.0-4.5 2.8-3.5 6 4-4.3
Lactose % 3.4-5.4 4.5-4.6 4 4-4.1
Solids, non-fat % 8.7-10.1 8.1 - 9.3
Total solids % 12.9-14.4 13-13.5 18 14-14.2

Note: Values for sheep are temperate breeds due to lack of statistics on tropical sheep

Bibliography

Al-Fahim, Mohamed, From Rags to Riches - A Story of Abu Dhabi, The London Centre for Arab Studies, London, 1995

Al Taie, Lamees Abdullah, Al Azaf - The Omani Cookbook, Oman Bookshop, Sultanate of Oman, 1995

Brock - Al Ansari, Celia, The Complete United Arab Emirates Cookbook, Emirates Airlines, Dubai, 1994

Carles, A B, Sheep Production in the Tropics, OUP, Oxford, 1983

Doughty, Charles M., Wanderings in Arabia, Duckworth, London, 1926

Dyke, Gertrude, The Oasis - Al Ain Memoirs of Doctor Latifa, Motivate, Dubai, 1995

Hogarth, David George, The Penetration of Arabia, Khayat, Beirut, 1966, preface dated 1904.

Keohane, Alan, Bedouin - Nomads of the Desert, Stacey International, London, 1994

Stark, Freya, A Winter in Arabia, Readers Union, London, 1941

Taylor, Andrew, Travelling the Sands, Motivate Publishing, Dubai, 1995

Thesiger, Wilfrid, Arabian Sands, Penguin, UK, 1964

Thomas, Bertram, Arabia Felix, Readers Union, London, 1938

Webster C C, and Wilson P N, Agriculture in the Tropics, Longman, UK, 1966

Weir, Shelagh, The Bedouin, British Museum Publications, London, 1990

Endnotes

[1] Hogarth was summarising the explorations to date in Arabia and it is surprising what little of the peninsula had been comprehensively explored at the start of this century.  His summary of the bedouin character is however concise and to the point.

[2] Some bedouin near the coastline split their activities between their flocks and fishing or pearl diving in the Arabian Gulf - Al-Fahim.

[3] Hogarth corrects the medieval error which assigned arabia felix to the south western provinces of the peninsula, but the error has become accepted in modern useage probably emphasised by our modern perception that these areas are more blessed in resources than the remainder.

[4] The "mess of wheat" or harees as described several times by Doughty was to be expected in Arabia where wheat was grown on the oasis fringes whereas rice, temmn, was generally imported by camel caravan from Iraq.  The meat was boiled first and then the wheat cooked in the stock.

[5] Weir reports the slaughter of one camel and 86 sheep at one such feast in 1973 for the visit of a member of the Saudi royal family to a group of Jordanian bedouin.  One dish contained 24 sheep on a mound of rice.

[6] The area bordering the southern Iraq marshes between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers was a major rice growing area up to the 1950's when Thesiger noted the importance of this crop to the Arabian economy.

[7] Copper has been replaced by aluminium. There is much evidence of prehistoric copper mining and refining on the peninsula.

[8] Snow was even recorded at high elevations every thirty or forty years.

[9] Doughty

[10] Valued at £2,000 by Doughty.

[11] Dyke and Weir respectively, samn is called dibn in the UAE.

[12] "where there is not coffee, there is not merry company": bedouin saying quoted by Doughty.

[13] Doughty

[14] And still do to this day, shai is invariably taken with a hefty sugar content.

[15] I have used dune sand in garden pot plants in the UAE and with regular watering have propagated seven different species from latent seed in the sand. One was Portulaca oleracea, purslane.

[16] Zizyphus spina-christi and Zizyphus leucodermis respectively.

[17] This palm, Nannorrhops ritchieana, also yields excellent strong rot-proof fibres for craft work.

[18] Unusual large game recorded included wolf, fox and hyena. Wolf flesh was considered to be medicinal, very good for aches in the shins.

[19] Small game included Cape hare, Ethiopian hedgehog, porcupine, and various rodents as well as many birds, some shot quite indiscriminately at hides. Snakes were not eaten but lizards were in extremis.

[20] Sadly they are still hunted, I saw a gazelle carcass from the small remaining population dangling from the back of a four wheel drive last winter.

[21] Doughty


Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan