Bedouin Food

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
The Bedouin (or Beduin) were nomadic herdsmen who lived in the deserts of Arabia and N. Africa. The number of true nomads is now in decline but their food culture has survived to influence the more sedentary populations which have developed in these regions.

Bedouin existence depended on their herds and flocks. The camel was the supreme possession, providing transport, milk for food and drink, meat, hair, hides, and dung for fuel. Camels were, however, a Bedouin’s wealth and prestige and would rarely be slaughtered for meat. Any camel meat usually came from the slaughter of surplus bull calves or injured or sick beasts. The camel 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. Where daily access to water could be assured, herds of goats and sheep were kept by the Bedouin, primarily for milk and meat but also for their skins which were used as water and food containers.