camel hump-served 1 copy

I tend to have an obsessive personality. If I like a shirt, I will buy half a dozen and not necessarily in different colours! If I enjoy a new dish, I will eat it again and again until I get bored with it. And if I want to taste something that is not so commonly available, I will think about it again and again until I find a way to try it.

Recently, I was invited to a feast in Al Ain, near Abu Dhabi. As is the custom here, I was relegated to the women’s quarters. I didn’t mind this. The host’s wife was gorgeous and totally charming; and I enjoyed talking to her about how she and her mother prepare various Emirati dishes. And when the time came for us to have lunch, I was thrilled to finally try camel meat cooked their way — as you know from a previous post, I have only had it minced and grilled on the street in Syria. Later, when all the male guests at the feast left, I joined the men of the house and as we talked about the feast, I realised that us women had been deprived of the camel hump. This was understandable. The choice cut is always served to the guest of honour and that day, this guest was sadly not me.

It was a blow. I had been wanting to taste camel hump ever since I got to the Emirates and I had just missed my chance. A chance that was not likely to come again so easily. To eat hump, you need to buy and cook a whole camel. Admittedly a small one, three or four months old, but still too large an animal for my little kitchenette here. Not to mention the cost at over $1000 dollars for the baby camel.

But the gods smiled upon me today and I finally got my wish. I happened to be in a catering kitchen this morning where they were preparing a baby camel (known here as h’war) for a feast. I didn’t catch the process from the beginning, just from when they spiced the meat including the hump until when they sent it away to be served at the feast. And here is what they did:

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The hump having been rubbed with different spices

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Then they put the hump, the rest of the camel plus a lamb and a goat (the feast was for the visit of a brother from abroad) in a huge pot to roast.

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Closing the pan after having covered the hump with foil so that it doesn’t melt, or perhaps burn.

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The pot is interesting because it sits on a gas fire and the lid is heated by burning charcoal. Here the chef is spreading the charcoal to distribute the heat evenly.

And below is a short clip about how I finally got to taste my first and perhaps last camel hump, and another of how they serve it (which took two days to upload and I thought the connection in Lebanon was bad), followed by pictures of how they send it away.  The verdict? It was good but I cannot honestly say that I will be obsessing about it any longer.

Perhaps not the heart of the hump as it were but close enough

Sorry about the finger interfering but I am still getting used to my tiny and totally wonderful flip camera.

camel hump-wrapped copy camel hump-finishing the wrap 4 the pick up copy

There is 28 comments on this post

  • oh my god, they cook a camel !
    they eat the whole camel ? i hope in many meals not one :S
    i am wowed by the size of pots they are using to cook :S

    really wondering how does it taste :S

  • Wow! That’s amazing! I missed the previous post on camel meat and just read through all the fascinating comments. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to try camel meat in Morocco and I posted something on it elsewhere and am reposting it below.

    I am guessing that originally (in the desert!) this would have been done in the largest available earthenware tandir set into the ground or even right in a hole in the ground. There would (presumably) be a minimal quantity of water at the bottom of the pot to get things started but essentially, the meat is continually basted by its own exuding fat, until at the end it is cooking in almost a kind of confit-as for instance in the delicious firin kebab of Konya.

    (A similar process, but starting with a far greater quantity of water-and without the enclosing lid-is used to make the “carnitas” of Michoacan state in Mexico.)

    Re: earlier discussion re camel meat in China

    I am wondering if camel is ever used to make the “rou jia mo” of Xi’an since I have seen donkey meat put to this use. It would certainly make a delcious filling for this great sandwich!

    Copied-and-pasted from a post of mine elsewhere:

    Camel meat is readily available in the souks of all the major cities-and often in the smaller towns as well. They’re sold by specialist butchers who are identifiable (to those who cannot read Arabic) by a sign that includes an illustration of a camel.

    There is one in Fes right on the Talaa Kebira (the main street through the medina) on the right hand side about 5 minutes’ walk going away from the Bab Boujeloud. If I remember correctly, the sign has a silhouette rather like that of the cigarettes.

    In Meknes, there are two camel butchers side by side in the area of the medersa-whose name escapes me at the moment-located in the heart of the medina. The one closer to the corner is identifiable by a large stuffed teddy-bear-camel hanging in front.

    (For this matter, horse meat is also easy to come by-specially in Rabat and the big markets of Casablanca-just as it is in Barcelona at La Boqueria (I was just there and the stall is still there), in Mantova, in Belgium-in fact in almost all big cities of continental Europe.)

    This bit about the meat of diseased and exhausted animals being sold is pure gossip-mongering: one glance at the sheer glistening freshness and color of the meat being sold at these camel specialists confirms the quality of the product. Whole haunches are sold, or could be cut into smaller bits for stewing (in tagines/grdas) or for kababs.

    Or the meat could be ground right there by the butcher in a old-fashioned meat grinder to make keftas. For the latter, a piece meat is weighed out first, and priced, then the butcher throws in a large hunk (too large for our modern taste!) of pure white fat (often from the hump: this is a much valorized type of fat). These are put to the grinder, along with onion, garlic, paprika (felfia), fresh mint and cilantro.

    This makes the most extraordinarily delicious hamburgers-specially when carefully prepared on the charcoal grill perhaps by one of the grill-specialist shops nearby. Camel meat is not gamey at all-and tastes like superior beef. “Petals” of camel fat are also on display-this is much valued for medicinal purposes but also used to make the wonderful Moroccan specialty called khlii (also sp khelea, khlea) which is a kind of (confit) of cured (lamb, cow or camel) meat.

    Absolutely pristine, vividly-fresh hearts and livers, kidney and other organ meats are also on display, hanging for all to examine. These are skewered to make that wonderful specialty called boulfaf. Now what I couldn’t find at all was gazelle meat, which I know is used in the cuisine of parts of the south. And I really thought that it would be easier to come by game birds (specially since it is now winter) in the souks of the big cities-specially since partridge, hare etc are so cheap and so easy to come by in places like Barcelona. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.
    End of repost.


  • Hi, Anissa
    I think that “blogueiros” has an obsessive personality, because I’m feel like this, and you’re a brave one: one feast with camel hump! It’s a great oportunity.

  • I just moved back to canada from a seven year stay in Al Ain. Al Ain is wonderful and I niss it fiercly. I loved reading this entry as it brought back memories of lunches with local ladies. We too would join the men after the guests left. I learned so much but never any recipes!

  • you should have learned some recipes meghan. delicious food.

  • it was a great opportunity, delicious and fun.

  • thanks for this richard. you are right about the tandir or tannur as it is known here. in fact, they seat a whole baby camel in it to roast but only for weddings and the camel is brought out whole but i don’t think they use any water. the heat is very low and there is no need for any water. as for boulfaf, i thought it was grilled stuffed spleen.

  • this camel was delicious. very tender and very tasty. the camel meat i have eaten previous to this was dry and chewy, except for when it is minced.

  • After having a ride on the back of a camel, I can hardly imagine tasting the hump roasted. I find it hard to separate the two images. But I am never the less intrigued.
    I am glad however that you were able to feed that yen.

  • and i can tell you that i was glad too. now i can move on to the next thing, which will probably be japanese.

  • Camel? I knew of people drinking the milk but not of eating the animal. Especially since you have to buy the entire animal in order to try the hump! It is always fun to try something at least once – I would do the same if I was there!

    By the way I love the blue in the photo of the hump – lovely photo!


  • thanks denise. it was the plastic tub they had it in.

  • I love your blog and am living vicariously through you. Everything you eat and write about is so remote, so mysterious and charming at the same time. It makes me very curious about what they all taste like.

  • so glad you are enjoying my blog. i guess some of what you would cook and eat would be mysterious to me too.

  • What an exotic meal. I can’t get over the size of those pots!

  • Wow, it’s enormous! I’ve only had camel once in my life many years ago when I still lived in Morocco. Thanks for the delicious post and photos!


  • Have you ppl ever heard about zebu cattle hump? It tastes the same, I mean a camel hump and a zebu hump. Its just a big ball of meat and fat.

  • Nunca comi; mas como já comi onça, cobra; e outros tipos de animais exoticos (do sertão nordestino) acredito que seja uma iguaria gostosa pois o cupim do boi é.

  • Thanks. I just awoke from a dream in which I served roast camel hump in an anniversary-type celebration. Very romantic, dates, pine nut, pistachio, onion & barley type stuffing. No idea what we were drinking but the venue was amazing- old ruins in the funds covered & decorated with oil lamps and lots of hanging fabric. Glad to know it’s possible 🙂
    This might be a decent “bucket-list” item.

  • Hi, I am very interested in where I can go to try this. I just moved to Abu Dhabi and have wanted to try this for a long time, is there a specific contact or restaurant that serves this?

  • not that i know of but i suggest getting in touch with ali ebdowa, the chef of the emirati restaurant at the emirates palace hotel. he should be able to help 🙂 good luck.

  • Where is this Place? I Need to Order small camel for my Mariage

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