John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
EGYPT and the SAHARA
www.johntyman.com/sahara
4 : NOMADIC LIFESTYLES
 4.4  Foodstuffs and Diets : 263-270
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.263. The Western image of the camel is of a pack animal crossing the desert in a caravan, nose to tail: but most of the camels herded by Bedouin have always been females kept for milk. These drifted like sheep in herds of between 50 and 100 camels from one patch of scrub to the next, with the 3 or 4 tents of a father, his sons and their womenfolk. (English language promotion of the health value of camelís milk courtesy: camelmilkforhealth.com
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.264. Camelís milk was the basis of Bedouin diet -- warm and frothy when drunk straight from the udder, or kept for a little while and lightly curdled. While the ability of camels to go without drinking for weeks at a time is impressive, of greater significance is their ability to convert scrubby vegetation and undrinkable brackish water into milk -- top quality human nutrition -- almost year-round. (Fresh camelís milk courtesy: camelcharisma
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.265. Traditionally, some Bedouin lived on nothing but camelís milk, some on a mixture of dates and camelís milk, and others on camelís milk, plus dates, couscous, cheese made from goat's milk, soup, unleavened bread baked over hot coals, plus a little meat. (Women preparing bread for baking over hot coals at Ain Khudra)
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.266. Meat (from male camels) was eaten only rarely -- on feast days, when a visitor arrived, or if an animal had to be slaughtered following an accident. Nothing was wasted: bones were cracked to get at the marrow, and the stomach and intestines were dried and kept for use in soups later. Even their hoofs were eaten -- being ground into powder and baked in cakes! (Butcher in Biskra)
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.267. Cash for household items was obtained by selling animal fat, butter, cheese, skins, wool and livestock in the nearest market town. It was the men who went to market, not the women: any women you see there will be townís people, not Bedouin. (Livestock market in Kairouan)
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.268. The dates they buy there will be eaten fresh or dried, or stored till required. They would also have bought bread grains there in former years but are now as likely to buy flour. (Dates in the market at Biskra)
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.269. The women milk their animals every morning and evening, and those with sheep and goats also make butter and cheese. A female camel can suckle her young and also provide 4 or 5 litres of milk each day for 11 months of the year, but camelís milk is of no use in making butter since it has no cream. Camels do not need to be herded like sheep or goats, but will return of their own accord to be watered and milked by their owners. (Young camel nursing courtesy: jordanjubiliee.com)
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.270. When the nomads moved to new pastures the tent and all of the familyís possessions (cooking pots, carpets, cushions, firewood, food and animal-skin bags full of water) would be loaded on to camels. Today trucks are sometimes used instead, carrying the women as well as their tent and their possessions. Trucks can also move water in barrels and sometimes even camels! Motor vehicles are also used today by those Bedouin who still hunt with falcons. (Near Arak)
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