When you think of Arabic cuisine, some popular dishes such as hummus, falafel, fattoush and umm ali might come to mind. Traditionally, food deriving from parts of the Middle East and some North African countries fall into the category of Arabic food. This cuisine dates back for centuries and differs according to the region.
The indigenous people of the Arab world are the Bedouin, the nomadic tribespeople who roamed this region for centuries. The roots of Arabic food lie in Bedouin culture, and while you have probably heard of the trendy falafel, here’s 10 things you probably didn’t know about Arabic food.
1.) Dates were the staple of the Bedouin diet. These fruits were harvested from palm trees and dried out in the sun. Fairly calorific, they provided a good source of energy and nutrients for Bedouin in the desert where food was scarce. Bedouin stored dried dates and could survive for months at a time on nothing but dates, animal milk and water. Dates are still a very strong tradition in Dubai and other Arab countries.
2.) Sometimes Bedouin had to eat locusts. When Bedouin came across swarms of locusts, they would collect, roast and eat them. Locusts provided a good source of protein and were sometimes even crushed into powder form and stored for later consumption.
3.) Hospitality, generosity and community are a big part of Arabic culture and eating habits. Meals are generally enjoyed as a family, often with the larger extended family. Traditionally meals are served as a series of shared dishes. Bedouin would even share a meal from one large plate. The large plate is placed in the centre of the group on a mat on the floor of traditional majlis (Arabic place of sitting).
4.) There are three traditional ways to prepare Arabic Regag bread. Bedouin women made Regag bread with flattened balls of dough by spreading the mixture into flat sheets over a round stove. Bread can also be baked in the sand or cooked in a metal dome over a campfire.
5.) A famous Arabic dessert is called Luqaimat. This is a type of sweet dumpling, similar to a doughnut with sprinkled date syrup and sesame seeds. They are deep fried in oil, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Luqaimat translates from Arabic into English as ‘bite-size.’
6.) The most common meat in Arabic cuisine is chicken and lamb. Traditional lamb dishes are usually served at formal occasions and celebrations like weddings. Beef, goat and other poultry in addition to chicken is occasionally consumed, as well as fish depending on the region.
7.) Bedouin traditionally ate with their fingers while sitting on the ground. When meat was eaten, often a large piece was passed around for everyone to cut off a piece with their dagger.
8.) Legumes are commonly used in Arabic food. Lentils are popular in Arabic dishes and fava beans are used in the more traditional Bedouin dishes like foul meddame. This is a common dish enjoyed for breakfast with fava beans, freshly chopped onions, spices like cumin and lemon juice.
9.) Dairy products are widely used in Arabic dishes. Yoghurt, laban, animal milk and a variety of cheeses were staples in the Bedouin diet. This is because these nomads travelled across the desert with their animals like goats and camels which provided lots of dairy products. This was a handy way to move with your food sources with little transport and no refrigeration.
10.) Some of the popular spices used in Arabic cooking are sesame, saffron, black pepper, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon. Depending on the region, Bedouin used a variety of spices and often relied on trading as a way to get these spices.
Arabic food has become a popular cuisine in many parts of the world. One of the best ways to learn about a new culture is by trying the local cuisine. Arab food is delicious and has plenty of associated rich traditions and customs.
You can experience a typical Bedouin breakfast on the Morning Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience or feast on a traditional Bedouin dinner on the Evening Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience in Dubai. Share authentic dishes with Bedouin in a traditional setting in the Dubai desert.
View the Al Marmoom Bedouin Breakfast Menu.
View the Al Marmoom Bedouin Dinner Menu.