Arabs reserve eating camel meat only on special occasions. How very righteous of them!
A camel carcass can provide a substantial amount of meat for the average family in the Arab World. The male dromedary carcass can weigh up to 400kg, while the carcass of a male Bactrian can weigh up to 650kg. The brisket, ribs and loin are among the preferred parts, and the hump is considered a delicacy. The hump contains white and sickly fat, which can be used to make the khli (preserved meat). Camel meat is reported to taste like coarse beef, but older camels can prove to be very tough, although camel meat becomes more tender the more it is cooked.
I have seen camel racing in Dubai and the sport is a popular pastime all over the Arab World. However, I have also seen camel farms and camel auctions where the camels are being sold off to the highest bidder (probably a restaurant owner). Sometimes, at a few fast food outlets in Abu Dhabi I swear I have seen camel shawarma – although it is only reserved for special occasions and not always for sale!
Camel meat, though, has been eaten for centuries. It has been recorded by ancient Greek writers as an available dish at banquets in ancient Persia, usually roasted whole. Camel meat is still eaten in certain regions in addition to the UAE, including Eritrea, Somalia, Djibouti, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and other arid regions where alternative forms of protein may be limited or where camel meat has had a long cultural history. However, it is always a surprise for a westerner who is not used to these customs who stumbles upon a public camel slaughterhouse, with the camel’s head hanging in full view of the street!