As the end of Ramadan approached, with only 5 days to go until Eid, I decided to step up my fasting regime to see what it would feel like to echo the diet of the desert nomad, the Bedouin, who famously could survive for months on only dates and camels milk. Sadly, unable to easily get hold of camels milk, I decided to swap it out for labeneh.... a thick strained yoghurt. But of course, dates are available aplenty so no issue there.
I had already been fasting during Ramadan, so the daily fast was not a problem, but the first night of eating only the dates and labeneh left me wanting more. Where was my daily grapefruit? My delicious chicken salad? I kept busy and drank alot of water to compensate. I didn't feel hungry during the day and I think it was only habit that made me crave my usual foods in the evening, because actually I found the combination of dates and labeneh really filling.
From day two it became much easier and I felt lighter on my feet and by day three, I'd lost a kilo in weight! This wasn't supposed to be about weight loss, but I'm never one to pass up a good side benefit!! Day five finally came today and I stepped on the scales to discover another kilo gone! 2 kgs lost in 5 days and I didn't feel any ill effects.
The Bedouin of course would survive alot longer than 5 days on their meagre diet. Bedouin literally translates as 'desert dwellers', and dates and camels milk were their staple diet for a reason. They were both readily available to nomadic North African and Middle Eastern pastoral tribes, who would wander for months, from well to well across dusty plains and sand dunes, devoid of any other natural resources.
The Bedouin would rarely slaughter a camel for meat unless it was very sick or there was a special event such as a wedding or visiting tribe, when custom and legendary Bedouin hospitality would necessitate the sacrifice of one of the herd. So for most of the time, the two most humble of food sources provided all the nutrition required.
Often drunk straight from the udder, it would be warm and frothy and plentiful..... the female camels would be milked each morning and evening, and even when suckling young, could provide an additional 4 to 5 litres of milk each day, for 11 months. Camels have the extraordinary natural ability to continue to produce milk even when going without water for weeks themselves.
Pastoral nomadic Bedouin tribes would usually purchase most of their dates from souqs in urban areas, rather than coming across them on their desert journeys, although date palms do grow naturally in many areas. Before the emergence of a cash economy, many of the nomadic tribes were paid in dates for protecting villages, urban markets and farms from other raiding tribes.