Friday, October 21, 2011

Dhub: the Spiny-tailed Lizard of the Desert

The Spiny-tailed Lizard known by the Arabic name of “Dhub” is a common desert reptile which, despite its dragon-like appearance, it is a peaceful reptile that prefers to flee rather than enter into conflict. It can use its short club-like tail with large pointed sharp scales to administer a painful blow. It never drinks water as it has special glands which help its body to dispose of uric acid. They are mostly found in shrubby areas with ledges that allows for burrowing. They can survive body temperatures of 46°C and display chameleon-like qualities, changing color in response to changes in temperature.




Although a protected species in Saudi Arabia, Dhubs are hunted for sport, kept as pets and even “eaten”.


Dhubs are the true masters of the desert, far better adapted to their arid environment than any camel or Bedouins. It survives on plants and no water at all. Dhubs are ectothermic; it doesn’t have to use up its food to maintain certain body temperature. At night and early morning, the skin is dark grey, but as the day warms up, it changes to beige and even to bright yellow.




Dhubs vary in sizes and can grow over 60 centimeters long. Their tail is covered with hard, very pointy spikes. When a Dhub clamps its jaws on something, it will be very difficult to induce it to let go.

Dhubs prefer to bask under the sun and when disturbed they puff-up to an awesome size and let out a frightening hiss. Dhubs are sprinters; they can dash to a safe retreat into their hole when incessantly threatened.

The holes are constructed just big enough for them to pass through. A Dhub’s instinct ploy for avoiding capture is to squeeze deep into the hole and inflate their bodies so not even the strongest aggressor can pull them out except of course when the aggressor gets his hand on their spiny tails.

Dhub is a delicacy among the Arab Bedouins in the peninsula.




I was offered a chance to taste it and to tell you the truth; the taste and meat texture is very similar to chicken. It has white meat.

I asked my Saudi friend if it is “halal” to eat lizards.

He explained to me a very inspiring teaching and related the principle in designation of what is permissible and not in the numerous facets of life under the Islamic teaching. As for me, I will never criticize anything that is presented as food dish but I will rather not engage with it if I didn’t like it.

An experience cook is a must in order to prepare and transformed the meat into a tasty and juicy dish. One suggested good dish preparation would be Lizard Salon complete with potatoes, fried tomatoes, onions and some parsley. Surprisingly, it tastes 100% like chicken. The meat color is very similar to chicken except the bones are a bit thin and the rib bones resemble more like fish bones but not as sharp as those of fish. There is no offensive smell, no weird taste nor peculiar after taste. It may look odd and disgusting but those who ridiculed it prior to tasting but somehow tasted it after, find themselves loving it.


The Lizard Salon Dish

A Dhub dish similar to Arabic Khabsa


My post does not encourage the readers to hunt and consume these lovely reptiles. Dhubs are now on the vulnerable species list. Humans have indiscriminately hunted down some of Middle East’s renowned species like the Arabian Oryx, Arabian Jird, the Nubian Ibex and the Houbara Bustard and perhaps the next to diminish will probably be the Dhub.

The desert never was an empty place. It's always been full of life. But too many people on board modern SUVs' equipped with sophisticated hunting gears and traveling on paved infrastructure are going to produce what nature never intended to face - extinction.




Special Credit to http://muslimmatters.org


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