RIYADH (Reuters Life!) - A fast food restaurant in Saudi Arabia is offering baby camel burgers as the latest way for the camel-crazed country to enjoy one of their favorite delicacies.
Specialties such as camel liver have long been on the menu of upmarket restaurants in the Gulf Arab state, but the experiment with baby camel burgers has met with enthusiasm in a country where the camel is a symbol of nomadic traditions.
“The idea...was to invent something new. It is about the love of Saudi people for camel meat,” said Saleh Quwaisi, one of the owners of the Local Hashi Meals restaurant in the capital Riyadh which plans to open a second branch soon and considers to expand further.
Walid Sanchez, managing director of sufraiti.com, a popular Saudi online dining directory, sees a huge market for camel burgers as Saudis like to try out new menus and appreciate the quality of locally made meat.
Some experts also say camel meat is healthy because it is low in fat.
“People like camel meat but no one experimented with camel burgers before...I think it will be a popular thing, it will definitely take off,” said Sanchez.
Customers visiting the packed restaurant in Riyadh on a weekend night agreed.
“I‘m frankly trying it for the first time and I really like it,” said Mohammad Naghi. “It doesn’t have much fat, it’s light and has a delicate taste,” he said as he chewed away.
Ahmad al-Okaili, ordering “Hashi” burgers -- Arabic for baby camel -- for him and his children, agreed: “I like their idea and enthusiasm, they’re the first to do this and they’ve become famous with it, which is well-deserved.”
While tremendous oil wealth has brought rapid modernisation to the desert state of Saudi Arabia, the camel remains celebrated due to its connection with the traditional nomadic lifestyle of Bedouin Arabs.
Throughout history, the camel has served multiple purposes as food, friend, transport and war machine. It was key to the Arab conquests of the Middle East and North Africa nearly 1,400 years ago that brought Islam to the world.
The Arabic language famously has over 40 terms for different breeds, ages and genders of camel.
Riyadh, which is home to one of the biggest camel markets on the Arabian peninsula, regularly hosts camel races, and every year in various places across the kingdom there are pageants -- where a winner could claim hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additional reporting by Asma Alsharif in Jeddah; writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Paul Casciato