Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Modern Egyptians: Tobacco and Coffee (Edward William Lane)

        The tobacco smoked by persons of the higher orders, and some others, in Egypt, is of a very mild and delicious flavour.  It is mostly from the neighborhood of El-Ladikeeyeh, in Syria.  The best kind is the "mountain tobacco", grown on the hills about that town.  A stronger kind, which takes its name from the town of Soor, sometimes mixed with the former, is used by most persons of the middle orders.  In smoking, the people of Egypt and of other countries of the East draw in their breath freely; so that much of the smoke descends into the lungs; and the terms which they use to express "smoking tobacco" signify "drinking smoke" or "drinking tobacco: " for the same word signifies both "smoke" and "tobacco".  Few of them spit while smoking:  I have very seldom seen any do so.

        The coffee ("kahweh") is made very strong and without sugar or milk.  The coffee-cup (which is called "fingan") is small; generally holding not quite an ounce and a half of liquid.  It is of porcelain, or Dutch-ware, and being without a handle, is placed within another cup (called "zarf"), of silver or brass, according to the circumstances of the owner, and both in shape and size, nearly resembling our egg cup.  In preparing the coffee, the water is first made to boil:  the coffee (freshly roasted and pounded) is then put in, and stirred; after which the pot is again placed on the fire, once or twice, until the coffee begins to simmer; when it is taken off, and its contents are poured out into the cups while the surface is yet creamy.  The Egyptians are excessively fond of pure and strong coffee, thus prepared, and very seldom add sugar to it (though some do so when they are unwell), and never milk or cream; but a little cardamom-seed is often added to it.  It is a common custom, also, to fumigate the cup with the smoke of mastic; and the wealthy sometimes impregnate the coffee with the delicious fragrance of ambergris.


An Egyptian Coffee-Service by Saad of Egypt Silversmiths, Cairo, 20th Century, former collection of 
HRH The Prince George Duke of Kent, KG, KT and HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, CI, KCVO and their families.  (Each chased overall with foliage, comprising: a coffee-pot; a circular salver and eight zarfs with blue glass liners, the salver and coffee-pot each applied with a label, contained in a fitted case the salver 12¾ in. (32.5 cm.) diam.)

Text excerpted from:  Edward William Lane,  An Account Of The Manners And Customs Of The Modern Egyptians (1836), Chapter V, Domestic Life 

King Farouk (1920-1965)

Princess Fawzia (b. 1921), born Her Sultanic Highness Princess Fawzia bint Fuad, sister to King Farouk I and currently the most senior member of the deposed Muhammad Ali Dynasty residing in Egypt.

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