Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Spiny-tailed Lizard or Dhab in Arabia.

Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastix microlepis)

This species is widely distributed across both the UAE and Arabia. It prefers natural desert, interspersed with gravel plains. It needs this harder substrate, in order to dig its large burrows, (they would collapse in pure, soft sand).

A typical pose of a Spiny-tailed Lizard.

They can grow up to 65cms and normally live in loose colonies. These colonies may extend over a wide area, depending upon the availability of food. They feed on natural desert vegetation. In fact, this is the sole lizard species, which is wholly vegetarian in Arabia.

The largest member of its genus, the Spiny-tailed Lizard, is easily recognised by the relatively short and heavily spined tail that gives the species its common name. The body is large and rather flat, with a large head and strong limbs and, like other members of the Agamidae, it is capable of changing colour with body temperature  turning from black, to white, or yellow, as the lizard warms up 

The Spiny-tailed Lizard is difficult to distinguish it from the closely related Uromastyx leptieni (Leptien’s Spiny-tailed Lizard). There is still some debate here in the UAE, if we have one, or maybe two species, in the country. Recent opinion seems to favour the later opinion.

The local name for this species is the dhab. (sometimes spelt dhub). It used to be widely eaten, as a good source of protein, by the local beduoin, but today in the UAE, it is protected by law.

In the UAE, the dhab,
 gets  full protection from the law!

In fairness to UAE nationals, I don't know of anyone who has eaten dhab, who is under 70 years of age! Modern UAE nationals, would turn up their noses in disgust! However, some believe that the dhab is an afrodisiac and in neighbouring countries, protection is not all that it should be!

Dhabs ready for the pot!
Some of us, have been celebrating Christmas, and the New Year, is just around the corner. So, if you fancy a change, for your celebratory meal, then try this yummy recipe from Jordan. This is a traditional recipe from this region.
Dhub Mansaf  (recipe from eastern Jordan)

2 whole dhubs
½ kilo rice
5 pieces Arabic bread (Khubz mashrouh)
¼ kilo laban or yoghurt
100 g ghee
50 g pine nuts
Salt, pepper, allspice, cardamom

Serves 2 to 3.

Catch two adult, well-grown dhubs, skin them and remove organs (except liver). Cut the dhubs into small pieces, wash them and cook in a small amount of water together with spices until the meat is half done. Add the laban and simmer until tender. Add the browned ghee, reserving a small quantity to brown the pine nuts. Meanwhile in another saucepan cook the rice. Keeping some bread aside to dip, break open the rest over a large tray, leaving an edging around the rim.  Spread more of the laban sauce over this and pile with rice. Arrange the pieces of dhub on top of the rice. Sprinkle the entire plate of rice and dhub, with browned pine nuts.

Eat with right hand.

Visual instructions:

It looks so great that .....

You have to protect your future meal!

Careful now, you don't want to spoil it do you?

Best enjoyed, among a group of like-minded friends.

Beautiful! Can you smell the rich aroma?

Bon appetite!

For something slightly different, try this alternative.

Carefully remove all skin, as it is, a bit leathery.

It looks just great doesn't it?

A wonderful dhab biryani!

Surprise & delight your friends with these wonderful local dishes. Just make sure that you have enough, to go around. Some people might come back for more! Enjoy!

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