Coptic Easter and A Feast in Rural Egypt – Recipes Included

Villages and hamlets in Egypt have traditionally been compactly built of mud brick, with crop leavings and fuel wood (such as cotton stocks) being stored on the roofs, as here.  In the absence of both space and rain, this is a good policy.  Source - Impresions de Egipto

Villages and hamlets in Egypt have traditionally been compactly built of mud brick, with crop leavings and fuel wood (such as cotton branches) being stored on the roofs, as here. In the absence of both space and rain, this is a good policy. In this picture, a woman is bringing her expectant donkey a serving of barsiim or other succulent greens from her fields.  Source – Impresions de Egipto

During the years that I spent a good deal of my time working and living in Upper [southern] Egypt while conducting  doctoral research, I was invited by friends in a nearby izba [small, extended family-based village, or hamlet] to join them at their church for Easter celebrations. Not having been to a Coptic Easter, I gladly accepted.

[19/04/2014 - On reflection, I am not happy with some of the pictures or some of recipes, and will be revising over the next few days - finding several links and so forth...]
Shenouda ii celebrating coptic easter in cairo, 2004. al-ahram weekly 24'3'05

Pope Shenouda ii celebrating Coptic Easter in Cairo, 2004.  Source –  al-Ahram weekly 24’3’05

Afterwards, we enjoyed a huge Easter feast, consisting of the following dishes. Recipes for these dishes are given at the end of the blog.

• Kishk (Cracked Wheat (Burghul) fermented with Milk & Yogurt)
• Mulukhiyyah bil-Firaakh (Jew’s Mallow Greens with Roast Chicken)
• Bamya bil-Gamusa (Okra with Water Buffalo Shanks)
• Arnabit bil-Tomatum (Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce)
• Ruz bil- Sha’ariya (Rice with Vermicelli)
• Gargir wa-Salatat (Salad Greens)
• ‘Aysh Nashif (Crispy Bread)
• ‘Aysh Baladi (Country Bread)

  The izba in which my friends lived was tucked neatly between 2 minor canals of the Nile

Izbas are small settlements that were founded  primarily during the 19th. Century by one extended family, generally operating as overseers of the lands of an Ottoman overlord.

Izbas are small settlements that were founded primarily during the 19th. Century by one extended family, generally operating as overseers of the lands of an Ottoman overlord.

and surrounded by a variety of vegetable crops, clover, maize and barsiim [clover] fields for the water buffalo and other livestock. It had been settled in the mid-19th. century by a Coptic extended family whose farming activities were part of the huge estate of an Ottoman landowner. During the time of Egypt’s President Nasser in the 1960’s, extensive land reform was affected and many of the huge land owners lost most of their vast holdings and/or fled Egypt, leaving many of the izba inhabitants true owners of perhaps a bit of the land that they had been farming for several.

Ploughing on the West Bank in Upper Egypt in the 1976.  Source - africa.focus.database. University of Wisconsin.

Ploughing on the West Bank in Upper Egypt in the 1976. Source – africa.focus.database. University of Wisconsin.

By the 1980’s, the izba discussed in this blog had grown to about 1200 persons – about 1/2 Muslim and 1/2 Coptic, though it was still considered a ‘Coptic’ izba. There was a small mosque, and a very large church that could accommodate the entire Coptic population of the izba.

Shadduf in ancient Egypt, tomb of Ipuy, Deir el :edina.  Source - Wikipedia

Shadduf in ancient Egypt, tomb of Ipuy, Deir el :edina. Source – Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

Shadduf in use near the Upper Egyptian town of Kom Ombo.  Source - Wikipedia

Shadduf in use near the Upper Egyptian town of Kom Ombo. Source – Wikipedia

 

I was instructed to wear warm clothing and bring a blanket or two, because April in rural Egypt is still very cold in the evenings. Entering the church I saw that whole families were accommodating themselves for the long night vigil with their blankets, pillows, and scarves.

On entering churches, worshipers can light a candle. - Source: HolyFamlyEgypt

On entering churches, worshipers can light a candle.
- Source: HolyFamlyEgypt

Then began a religious passion in the most traditional sense. All elder men and male heads of families took terms chanting and reading Coptic religious texts. This continued for approximately six hours, by candle light for there was no electricity in the izba. Participants in the church, separated by gender and with younger children tended by their mothers, huddled closer and closer together to keep warm. After a time, a very large icon of Christ was carried in by 2 men, and this was followed by an athletic fellow impersonating the Devil, followed by the Devil’s entourage. As the chanting reached great emotional heights, the icon of Christ alternately was chased down one isle and another – but at appropriate times the icon of Christ chased back the Devil and his pack. This continued until dawn, when Christ conquered the Devil, the service ended, and everyone joined in glorious song and prayers.

Icons are an important feature in all Coptic churches. - Source: copticpainting23

Icons are an important feature in all Coptic churches.
- Source: copticpainting23

Cramped and cold, we all trooped back to the 2-story mud-brick house where Umm Makram and her married daughters began preparing a huge meal, while the rest of us enjoyed a refreshing snack of dried kishk mixed into hot chicken broth and sautéed onion, followed by sweet tea.  This was a favorite dish of both Muslims and Copts in the Nile Valley, [a kishk recipe is also given, below]. Umm Makram and her daughters prepared a lavish meal, consisting of the following dishes:

 Mulukhiya (leaves of the Jew’s marrow) and roast chicken;  Water buffalo shanks and okra;  Deep-fried cauliflower in tomato sauce;  Rice and vermicelli cooked with lavish quantities of water buffalo butter that has been clarified (semna) ;  Crisp, large rounds of aysh naashif – a crispy white bread made only in rural Upper Egypt, which had been previously made by the women  Various fresh greens and onions.
 

. These are staple fellaheen [Egyptian rural/ peasant] dishes; fancier fare – dishes that are said to be traditional Egyptian – but have been heavily influenced by Ottoman and Greek cuisine – are found primarily in Cairo and other large cities of Egypt. Fellaheen dishes are rich in oils and clarified butter in which many cloves of garlic and onion slices are sautéed, and contain mellow spices: cumin; coriander; cardamom… sometimes a little hot pepper and splashes of lemon or vinegar.

For our feast, in the early afternoon a large, round table was placed in the center of the main room of the two-story, mud brick house – a low table, about 2′ high, around which we all sat on little stools; about 12 of us. Dishes were served on large trays and platters, and everyone had a soup spoon by which to select bites from the different trays and bowls.Before eating one must wash the right hand, which is the only hand used in eating. Meat is eaten by the hand, and bread in used in taking up mulukhiyya and rice. A spoon may be used to take up broth from the mulukhiyya, the spoon then being filled with a bit of rice.

Most rural areas of Egypt now have standpipes where water can be collected and carried to the homes.  Traditional methods of collecting water from nearby canals and transporting it home are now quite rare. - Source: Egypt (first batch)

Most rural areas of Egypt now have standpipes where water can be collected and carried to the homes. Traditional methods of collecting water from nearby canals and transporting it home are now quite rare.
- Source: Egypt (first batch)

After the meal is finished, hand-washing again takes place, and a glass of water can then be drunk. Water is never consumed with the meal as this is though to result in indigestion. All food that remained was given to poor families in the izba. Then, throughout the rest of the day, friends and relatives visited one another, Muslim neighbors from the quarter also visited to wish a good holiday, lingering on benches outside the house to chat. By the evening everyone dropped totally exhausted into their beds, with visitors accommodated on piles of quilts and bedding that had been prepared in advance and smelled pleasantly of the camphor wood trunks in which they had been stored. Village and izba homes are generally constructed one against the other, and roads can be very narrow. In a country that lacks land both for homes and cultivation, this is an important strategy. In the evenings, families and friends promenade about the village, resting a few minutes on the mastaba – or benches that are built outside the main entrance of a house – to exchange news and greetings.

Mud brick or cement benches always feature at the entrance of village houses, as seen here  – a place for family and visitors to congregate in the evenings. - Source: Adventure Travel Tales

Mud brick or cement benches always feature at the entrance of village houses, as seen here – a place for family and visitors to congregate in the evenings.
- Source: Adventure Travel Tales

 * * * * *

Food in rural Egypt has evolved to satisfy the appetites of hard-working farmers. It tends, therefore, to use quite a lot of semna [clarified butter] and oil, as well as quite large amounts of garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, and cardamom. Not much meat, however, except for holidays. Hot pepper spices are occasionally used, but do not feature into the dishes.

Dishes of Muslims and Christians are basically the same, although during fast days Copts will rely on non-meat recipes and during the fasting month of Ramadan Muslims consume large amounts of dry and fresh fruits and also prepare nut and fruit-based recipes as part of fast-breaking. Copts fast approximately 200 days per year, 60 of which are completely vegetarian meals. During the remaining fast days, fish are allowed. Here are my own recipes for the Easter meal that we ate, as explained to me by Umm Makram; if the levels of butter and garlic do not suit you, by all means reduce the quantities! Some recipes are adapted from written sources and so noted.

Kishk (Cracked Wheat (Burghul) fermented with Milk & Yogurt)

Kishk is a powdery substance made of bulgur [cracked wheat], which is fermented with milk and yogurt. The 3 ingredients are mixed and fermented for about 9 days – each day the substance is thoroughly kneaded. Thereafter, it is spread out on cloths in the sun to dry, and once dry it is carefully rubbed between the fingers into a powder that is stored for months of future use. Although I doubt this process is still practiced in Upper Egypt as it was during my time there.

1. Using Kishk:

Ingredients:

1 C. Kishk [Available on-line or in Middle East shops]
1 T. Clarified butter
4 cloves Garlic
1 lg. Onion
4 C. Chicken stock
To taste Salt & pepper

Method: • Melt butter • Saute Onion & garlic • Mix in Kish; cook a few minutes • Remove from heat & add liquid slowly, stirring • Return to heat & cook, stirring, until the dish thickens • Add salt & pepper to taste • If too thick, add a little more liquid

  • Source: Mallos: The Complete Middle East Cookbook

2. Using flour: If you do not have authentic kishk, you can make a dish that resembles it using flour, yogurt and stock, a method taught me by a Cairene friend:

Ingredients:

1.5 oz. Clarified butter
2 T. Oil
3 T. Flour
3 med Onions
3-4 cloves Garlic
450 g. Thick Yogurt
1 L. Stock
To taste Salt & Pepper

Method: • Fry onions until brown in oil • Cook garlic in butter • Add flour to garlic & butter and blend • Add yogurt, a few spoons at a time and mixing well • Add stock slowly & onions, mixing well • Simmer until thick • Add salt & pepper • Add more stock or water if too thick

Mulukhiyah bil-Firaakh (Mulukhiyah Greens with Roast Chicken)

Ingredients:

1 –2 Chicken, whole
5 oz dry, or 1# fresh Mulukhiyah [Jew’s Mallow] – or use spinach
12 cloves Garlic
8 med Onion
5 T Clarified butter
6-8 C Water
1 T Coriander
6 Cardamom pods
4 Lemons
To taste Salt & Pepper

Method: • Put chicken in a large casserole to which ½ the onions [quartered] ½ the garlic & all of the cardamom pods have been added; cover with water • Simmer chicken until tender • Remove from heat; set chicken aside; keep warm • Meanwhile, if using fresh mulukhiyah, chop in very fine pieces with a makhratah (2-handled, curved knife) or a regular knife; if using dry mulukhiyyah, rub to fine pieces with fingers • Strain chicken stock [or not, as you wish] • Add more liquid if necessary, to make 6-8 cups • Add mulukhiyyah to the broth, together with salt and pepper – cook no more than 5 minutes [overcooking results in the mulukhiyah sinking to the bottom of the pot – you want it to remain suspended in the liquid] • Melt 3 T. clarified butter in a large pan, and brown chicken/s evenly • Make a taqliyyah by mashing garlic, salt and coriander together, and frying in 2 T of clarified butter • When mulukhiyyah is nearly done, add the taqliyyah and mix; • Add salt & pepper • Simmer a bit longer • Add juice from 2-3 lemons – or, quarter lemons and serve separately • Check spices

To Serve: • Cut Chicken in pieces • Pour mulukhiyyah in a large serving dish • Place chicken pieces on a separate platter, or combine with the mulukhiyah • Slice any remaining lemons into quarters and serve separately

Bamyah bil-Gamusa (Okra with Water Buffalo Shanks)

Ingredients:

2 kg Water buffalo shanks [forearms; sliced horizontally into 1 – 2 in. pieces
1.5 kg Bamyah – fresh okra – very small and whole
6 + 3T Clarified butter
2-3 Onion 6 cloves Garlic
1.5 t Cumin 1.5 t Coriander
4 Tomatoes, chopped
3 T Tomato paste

Method: • Brown and sear meat in 6 T. clarified butter; set aside • Fry onion and garlic – sliced – in the drippings • Add tomatoes and sautée until soft • Add meat & Spices • Add stock with tomato paste, to cover • Simmer until tender – 2-3 hours

Meanwhile: • Carefully trim tops of okra – do not cut into the okra as this results in sliminess • Soak ½ hour in vinegar to cover; rinse (This helps also to reduce the sliminess) • Saute okra in 3 T. clarified butter; set aside

When meat is nearly done: • Mix in okra [or place it on top of the meat]; cover & continue cooking until okra is done • Squeeze in juice of 1 or so lemon Dried okra can also be used: The product is dried in rural Egypt by threading the okra fingers onto a long thread and hanging in the sun. The resulting product can be stored for long periods of time, and when cooked has a pleasingly pungent flavor and is less gelatinous than fresh okra.

 Arnabit bil-Tomatum (Cauliflower in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients:

1 1 large or 2 small arnabit (cauliflower), broken into flowerets
4 T. Clarified butter 1
5 lg. Tomatoes, chopped
2 Onion, chopped
6 Garlic cloves
2 t Cumin
To taste,  Shatta – hot pepper
To taste, Salt & Pepper Oil for deep-frying

Method: • Deep fry cauliflower until crisp-done • Sprinkle with some cumin; salt; pepper & set aside • Saute onion & garlic in butter • Add tomatoes, skinned & chopped • Simmer until a sauce has formed • Add stock, if too dry • Add cumin – salt – pepper to taste • Simmer until sauce is blended • Add Cauliflower and cook a couple of minutes to blend flavors

Ruz bil- Sha’ariyyah (Rice with Vermicelli)

Ingredients:

2 C. Rice (ruz); washed
½ C. Vermicelli (sha’ariyyah), broken into ¼” pieces
4 T. Clarified butter
4 Cardamom pods
4+ C. Broth for rice
Salt & pepper to taste

Method: • Saute Vermicelli in some of the butter until light brown; set aside • Saute rice in remaining butter • Add broth; cardamom pods; salt • Simmer until nearly done • Add vermicelli; fluff • Continue cooking until done

Gargiir wa-Salatat (Salad Greens)

Arrange a selection of -

salad greens;
radishes;
green onions
other, as you wish

… on a plate as finger food

‘Aysh Naashif (Crispy Bread)

The large, white rounds of bread made in rural Upper Egypt are unique to that part of the country. Women will gather at a home about once a month and share in the task of preparing the dough, stoking the oven fire, and baking the rounds; it is an all day task. The bread rounds – which are about 2.5’ in diameter – are then stacked in a large cloth or wicker basket that is loosely tied shut, and will last the family for several weeks.

Method of baking large rounds of bread in southern egypt.  Source - Susan Weeks, Theban Mapping Project

The method of baking large rounds of bread in southern egypt. Source – Susan Weeks, Theban Mapping Project

At the mud brick oven, which is fueled by cotton branches and other crop leavings, many of which have been stored on the roof - or may be purchased.  Source - Susan Weeks, Theban Mapping Project

A woman attends her mud brick oven, which is fueled with cotton branches and other crop leavings, many of which have been stored on the roof – or may be purchased. Source – Susan Weeks, Theban Mapping Project

‘Aysh nashif requires considerable skill to make and bake, and in place of a recipe for it, here is how to make ‘aysh baladi – the ubiquitous round ‘pita’ loaves found in most of Egypt:

 ‘Aysh Baladi – A Recipe for Egyptian Bread

There are many recipes for Egyptian pita bread, or aysh baladi.  See this link for a selection.

 
Posted in Coptic, Crop harvests, Cuisine, Easter, Egypt, Egypt-Ancient, Egypt-Recent, Feasts, Food, Nile Valley | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

An Ancient Jewish Community on Elephantine Island, Aswan

One of the most interesting interludes in ancient Egyptian history concerns the Jewish community that inhabited a portion of Elephantine Island, located in southern Egypt adjacent to the town of Aswan, during the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E.  There has been considerable debate about the community over the last century – but in this and a few other blogs I want to deal with several social and cultural aspects that are of interest.
elephantine-excavation templestudy-com

“Jewish Life” comes alive through the remarkable, Aramaic-language scrolls, which describe a Jewish community on lush Elephantine 800 years after the biblical exodus … These people were descendants of Jews who had voluntarily returned to Egypt after the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. While elite Jews were forced into exile in Babylonia, many soldiers and common folk relocated to Egypt, which proved to be a multicultural mecca,

Source /  jewishjournal.com

Elephantine, the island on which the Jewish community and temple were located, is situated in the Nile River just next to the town of Aswan in southern Egypt.  It is the location of the First Cataract and the end of effective cultivation.  Source - visitbluenile.com

Elephantine, the island on which the Jewish community and temple were located, is situated in the Nile River just next to the town of Aswan in southern Egypt. It is the location of the First Cataract and the end of effective cultivation. Source – visitbluenile.com

Just how the community was founded continues to be debated – either the original population came into Egypt to help with Persian conquests in Nubia, and then stayed on as professional soldiers, and/or a group of disgruntled priests and others  emigrated to southern Egypt following the troubles with Manasseh of Judah, who introduced the worship of heavenly bodies, quite against Jewish laws.

We know about their life and affairs over several generations thanks to a series of manuscripts written in Aramaic (lingua franca of the time) that concerns their private lives as well as business concerns.   And even more interesting, the community founded and  maintained a temple in ancient Elephantine, and there are various of the documents that refer to it, which we will discuss in a future blog.

Elephantine_papyri pcchong-net

One of the papyri, still bound and sealed. Source-pcchong.net

Ancient trade routes between the nile valley and the levant , and south to Aswan and Elephantine. Source - hebrewhistory.com

Ancient trade routes between the Nile valley and the levant, and south to Aswan and Elephantine. Source – hebrewhistory.com

This link to a Google satellite map shows the general layout of the island.

One of the interesting aspects of the legal documents has to do with the right of women to legally hold property, to both receive and sell it.  Below is one of the best preserved land deeds, in which a father provides his married daughter a grant of land and a house.  Note that even in the case of divorce, the husband is not allowed access to all of the house and property.

House contract 2nd.

Source - Cowley-Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C.  1923.

As a commemoration of this week of Passover, future blogs will take up several other aspects of this fascinating community.

ElepahntineView

Elephantine Island, with the ancient  ruins visible at the south end of the island, looking north along the Nile River.  The modern town of Aswan is to the right.  Source-mccombiefulbright.blogspot.com
 

[Revised 15 April 2014]

Posted in Egypt-Ancient, Elephantine, Jewish Holiday, Jewish Temple | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Season in Egypt, 1834: ‘Smelling the Breeze’, Making Kishk, Eating Colored Eggs & Salted Fish

kishk, an Egyptian dish made with thickened mi...

A bowl of kishk topped with sautéed onions, an Egyptian dish made with thickened milk or yogurt and topped with fried onions. It is described in the following text as a 19th century treat. In the village where I lived, it was still a great treat that was made by some of the older women.  It is a dish that transcends religious sects and socio-economic strata, as well as ethnicities. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manners and Customs of The Modern Egyptians, by E. Lane, is a two-volume set filled with lore about Egypt during the author’s time (1834). And although it makes for fascinating reading, the book is now largely ‘put down’ by post-colonial theorists who are troubled by the Orientalist mind-set of Lane and his colleagues.

Nevertheless, taken at descriptive value, it – as so much of the colonial literature of exploration – provides views both into lifestyles of local people at the time and their (presumed) thoughts – as well as mindsets of the authors themselves; of colonial mentality.

The following excerpt describes common practices during Orthodox Easter time in Egypt (1834), and includes a recipe for kishk, which was eaten as part of the celebrations for Good Friday. Kishk is still a very popular dish, eaten year-round, and I remember the delicious kishk that was made in the Izba (hamlet) in Upper Egypt where I lived while doing research.

Salted fish ( فسيخ), lettuce, and onion are also eaten as part of this spring celebration, which is commonly organized as a picnic.  It is said that these practices can be traced back to ancient Egypt, though I cannot find solid information about this.  Nevertheless, it is a celebration that encompasses both Muslims and Christians and transcends socio-economic strata.

An izba in Upper Egypt, similar to the one in which I lived. Kishk was a great treat, as made by some of the older women.  It is a dish that transcends religious sects and socio-economic strata, as well as ethnicities.  Source - Village by Ahmed Moustafa

An izba (hamlet) in Upper Egypt, similar to the one in which I lived.  The green matter on the roofs is fodder, crop leavings, and oven fuel.  Source – oilpaintingsonline.com, the painting is by Ahmed Moustafa, of Alexandria.

Of particular interest in the following description, is the melding of Muslim, Coptic, and non-religious activities into one ceremony – called, as still today,  Shamm al-Nasim (شم النسيم – literally, ‘sniffing the breeze’).  Some of the activities described below are still found, while others, such as ritual washing with a particular plant, are no longer to be commonly found.

Until the presidency of Nasser (mid-20th century), there was a large Jewish community in Cairo and it is possible that the Jewish celebration of Passover, which takes place during the same time period in Egypt, also incorporated aspects of the Shamm al-Nasim celebration.

IT is remarkable that the Moos’lims of Egypt observe certain customs of a religious or superstitious nature at particular periods of the religious almanac of the Copts [Orthodox Christians of Egypt]; and even, according to the same system, calculate the times of certain changes of the weather.

Thus they calculate the period of the Khum’a’see’n [khamsiin], when hot southerly winds are of frequent, occurrence, to commence on the day immediately following the Coptic festival of Easter Sunday, and to terminate on the Day of Pentecost (or Whitsunday); an interval of forty-nine days.

Coptic and Arabic inscriptions in an Old Cairo...

Coptic and Arabic inscriptions in an Old Cairo church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wednesday next before this period is called Ar’ba’a Eiyoo’b, or Job’s Wednesday. Many persons, on this day, wash themselves with cold water, and rub themselves with the creeping’ plant called raara’a Ei-yoo’b, or ghoobey’ra (inula Arabica, and inula undulata), on account of a tradition which relates that Job did so to obtain restoration to health. This and other customs about to be mentioned were peculiar to the Copts; but are now observed by many Moos’lims in the towns, and by more in the villages.

The other customs just alluded to are that of eating eggs, dyed externally red or yellow or blue, or some other colour, on the next day (Thursday); and, on the Friday (Good Friday), a dish of khul’tah, composed of kishk*, with foo’l na’bit**, lentils, rice, onions, &c.

Washing before a meal, a necessary task. Source: Lane, Manners and Customs…

* Kishk is prepared from wheat, first moistened, then dried, trodden in a vessel to separate the husks, and coarsely ground with a hand-mill: the meal is mixed with milk, and about six hours afterwards is spooned out upon a little straw or bran, and then left for two or three days to dry. When required for use, it is either soaked or pounded, and put into a sieve, over a vessel; and then boiling water is poured on it: what remains in the sieve is thrown away: what parses through is generally poured into a saucepan of boiled meat or fowl, over the fire: some leaves of white bete, fried in butter, are usually added to each plate of it.

** foo’l na’bit are Beans soaked in water until they begin to sprout, and then boiled.

On the Saturday, also, it is a common custom of men and women to adorn their eyes with kohhl. This day is called Sebt en-Noo’ r (Saturday of the Light); because a light, said to be miraculous, appears during the festival then celebrated in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

A custom termed Shemm en-Nesee’m* (or the Smelling of the Zephyr) is observed on the first day of the Khum’a’see’n. Early in the morning of this day, many persons, especially women, break an onion, and smell it; and in the course of the forenoon, many of the citizens of Cairo ride or walk a little way into the country, generally northwards, to take the air, or, as they term it,smell the air, which, on that day, they believe to have a wonderfully beneficial effect. The greater number dine in the country.

This year (1834), they were treated with a violent hot wind, accompanied by clouds of dust, instead of the nesee’m: but considerable numbers, notwithstanding, went out to smell it.

*شم النسيم

Source: Edward William LaneAn Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Written in Egypt during the Years 1833, -34, and -35, partly from Notes made during a Former Visit to that Country in the Years 1825, -26, -27, and 28. In Two Volumes
Posted in Colonial, Colonialism, Cuisine, Egypt, Egypt-Ancient, Egypt-Recent, Food, History-Recent, Nile Valley, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

World Donkey Day (May 8)

dianabuja:

Donkeys are very important in parts of Africa as well as all over the Middle East, and I shall be blogging about them to celebrate International Donkey Day. This is a great post.

Originally posted on Camel, food security and climate change :

Donkey is very useful, important and precious animal genetic resource for food and agriculture. Donkey plays pivotal role in the livelihood earning of the million people of the world. Donkey is widely use for pastoral movement, carting, agricultural operations and recreation purposes. There is wide intra and in breed diversity. Such diversity is based on habitat, purpose, selection etc. Donkey is well adapted to all climatic conditions and ecosystem. It ranges from cold temperate region, cold deserts, dry and hot deserts, plain lands, high Alps and coastal ecosystems of the globe.

In some countries, the products, especially milk and meat of donkey is also use. Milk is use as medicine among the pastoral communities for the treatment of respiratory diseases since long time. The meat products are use in many countries of the world and Salami is the famous dish of donkey meat.

Donkey is now introduced in many EU countries as…

View original 347 more words

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Wheat rises to a symbol of equality and opportunity

dianabuja:

Notes from a recent talk  at CIMMYT, by Rachel Laudan, on the history of wheat that will soon be Published.  Here are some notes from the talk and another link to the conference – interesting –

– As a greater range of foods began to be made from wheat, the grain became a status symbol for those who consumed it. The color of bread was a symbol of power and material wealth, with the rich consuming lighter breads and the poor eating darker breads made from grains besides wheat, Laudan said.

A recent article from the Global Development Professionals Network has this to say about the CIMMYT event –

Meeting the growing demand for wheat, as one of the world’s most important staple crops, would significantly boost food security in developing countries across the world.

Developing improved wheat breeds, species and technologies will also make wheat production easier and cheaper for farmers in the developing world – and so give them better access to markets…

See this link for more details.

 

 

Originally posted on MU Earth:

By Meghan Eldridge

CIUDAD OBREGON, Mexico — A grain commonly found on today’s grocery store shelves has risen throughout history as a sign of equality and opportunity for those who eat it.

Rachel Laudan, a food historian and author of the book “Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History” from the U.K., discussed the role of wheat across history at a presentation on March 27 during the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security.

Rachel Laudan, historian and author, discusses research findings about the role of wheat in civilizations during a presentation on March 27, 2014. Laudan's research assesses the past, present and future importance of grains.

Rachel Laudan, historian and author, discusses research findings about the role of wheat in civilizations during a presentation on March 27, 2014. Laudan’s research assesses the past, present and future importance of grains. Photo by Meghan Eldridge

Beginning 20,000 years ago, grains had a major influence on the development of ancient cities as a source of food for populations, Laudan noted.

Wheat touched every facet of life, from the work of grinding the grain to the worship…

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Darwin in Arabia – The Introduction of Evolution into the 19th Century Middle East

This is a book I cannot obtain here, but have found a detailed review, from which I quote below and provide references and other links.  The topic is indeed fascinating, in considering the multiple ways in which concepts move from one region to another – involving political, religious, and linguistic dimensions, among others – are treated.  As well, the concept of  *science* as being of European origin and implications of this fact in the Middle East.

READING DARWIN IN ARABIC, 1860–1950 by Marwa Elshakry
448pp. University of Chicago Press. $45.
978 0 226 00130 2
The Book of Animals of al-Jahiz, Syria, fourteenth century Irwin_Darwin in Arabia

In reviewing the above-referneced book, Robert Irwin points out some of the difficulties of translocating both concept and vocabulary of Darwinism from Victorian England into the Middle East as well as into Arabic >

For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”.“Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”.

When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language.

Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.

The word al-tatawwur has further migrated from meaning evolution in the 19th century (above) into the language of development in modern standard arabic.  I learned this some years ago when asking a professor at a regional university in Egypt what he thought I should call an upcoming talk I was giving at the university.  He responded, al-tatawwur fil-aryaaf wal-alaqaatuhu bi-dawlah (Development in the countryside and connections (of the countryside) with the State).

Regarding Darwinism itself, Irwin goes on to say -

Reading Darwin in Arabic deals primarily with the works of popularization and polemic produced by a small elite of bookmen during the heyday of the Nahda (Awakening, Rennisance) …

Elshakry’s densely argued and fascinating book casts the net wider than that and gives extensive coverage to such matters as missionary ambitions and strategies in the Middle East, Muhammad Abduh’s attempts to reform al-Azhar as a teaching institution, the rise of Pharaonism as a cultural movement, the growing sense of an Islamic civilization with a history, the eleventh-century Sufi al-Ghazali’s overweening presence in philosophical debates, and Arab interest in Atatürk’s reforms.

As Elshakry notes, enthusiasm for Darwin and his followers fell away after the Second World War and that enthusiasm turned to outright hostility from around 1970 onwards. The reasons for this lie beyond the scope of Reading Darwin in Arabic. Perhaps the intellectual prestige of the British declined as their empire was dismembered. Perhaps Muslim scholars took their lead from American creationists. The rise of a militant political Islam may also have been a factor.

This appears to be a most worthwhile read and I plan to obtain a Kindle addition. Reference to the article in the Times Literary Supplement from which I quote is -

Darwin in Arabia, by ROBERT IRWIN

A couple of other links to presentations by  Dr Marwa Elshakry are given bleow -

Translating Knowledge

Historians have begun to explore the paradox of the identification of a would-be universal form of rational knowledge known as science with the particular historical experience of Europe.

This begs the question: how have new forms of scientific knowledge been translated, received, assimilated, and engaged outside of the cultural contexts within which they were produced?

In this episode, Marwa Elshakry examines the case of Arab engagement with and translation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is the subject of her recently published book entitled Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950.

 

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Two Sentenced to Death for Throwing Children off a Rooftop in Alexandria, Egypt

dianabuja:

Given the months of unrest in Egypt, it is indeed hopeful to learn that the persons responsible for this act have been punished. I remember seeing the original video last year and being horrified. The video was taken by a person in a neighbouring building, as I remember. It is graphic.

Originally posted on Egyptian Streets:

The Alexandria Criminal Court has sentenced Mahmoud Hassan Ramadan and Mohamed Al-Ahmady to death for throwing three teenagers off the roof of an apartment block. The papers for the approval of the capital punishment have been sent to the Mufti.

The court has also ruled that 61 others arrested at the time of the incident will remain in detention until the next court hearing which will be held on May 19, 2014.

Two of the boys thrown off the roof in the incident that ocurred in July 2013 during pro-Morsi demonstrations suffered serious injuries. A third boy, who had just turned 19, was announced dead three hours later while in hospital.

The boys were attacked by the group of men, including a bearded man waving the black Al-Qaeda flag, for ‘celebrating the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.’ Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters had gathered in Alexandria’s Sidi Gaber to call…

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