Sunday, February 23, 2020


This week social media in Arabia was flooded with videos of locust swarms invading the deserts. The swarms are possibly from Pakistan, which is having serious issues with locusts right now, or maybe the weather conditions in the entire region are helping locusts swarm, I'm not sure. Unfortunately I didn't see a swarm myself, that would have been cool to witness.

In the local news was this great article: Ministry combats locust swarm, warns against eating the insects. Now most Westerners are probably thinking, "Don't eat them?! Did that really need to be said?". Well the answer is yes, it needed to be said. Many people in Arabia eat locusts and the Qatari Government is concerned if people eat them they may be poisoned by the insecticides the Government is spraying to control the swarms.

Islam has a number of dietary restrictions and Muslims have to avoid foods that are 'haram' (forbidden). The most well known of these haram foods is pork, but there are other restrictions as well. It has some similarities (but is not exact) to Jewish dietary laws. Muslims look for food that is 'halal', acceptable for Muslims to eat.

While not specifically mentioned in the Qur'an, eating locusts is mentioned in a number of hadiths as 'halal'. A quick Google search found about a dozen such references in hadiths, including one in the Al-Bukhari hadiths:

Narrated by Ibn Abi `Aufa:
We participated with the Prophet (peace be upon him) in six or seven Ghazawat, and we used to eat locusts with him.

Locusts are, I believe, the only insect specifically listed as halal. Because of this many people in the Arabian peninsula will eat them. It is not commonly done in Qatar, I don't see grilled locusts being sold at marketplaces here, but clearly when abundant some people eat them, hence the Government's warning. A Qatari friend mentioned to me that when he was young and at an Army Cadet camp they had to eat locusts as part of desert survival skills training. It's not something he enjoyed eating though.

Despite the hadiths it is not common here for locusts to be eaten in Qatar. It is more common in the southern part of the peninsula, particularly in Yemen. A Yemeni friend confirmed locusts were eaten frequently there, to the point where people may even protest using insecticides so that they can eat locusts safely (I guess they want locusts to be organic).

I haven't tried one myself. I am usually pretty open-minded about trying new foods but eating a locust, even a cooked one, grosses me out. I'll pass and let the swarms live in peace.