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
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A Tasty Congolese Relish with Manioc Leaves – Isombe y’umwamba

Cooking palm nuts to soften the nuts for oil e...

Image via Wikipedia

26/6/2015

Yesterday I went out into the parcel’s garden and noticed that both palm oil trees have nice clumps of palm oil kernels that are growing.  They should be ready in a couple of weeks, when I’ll do another blog about their use here in central Africa.

The following blog details a very popular use of manioc leaves cooked in palm oil, and manner of extracting oil from the kernels that is still found in some areas of the county –


The following recipe – ‘Manioc leaves with crushed palm oil kernels‘ – is popular throughout central Africa and combines three of the most important local ingredients – manioc leaves, fresh oil from palm nuts, and ground nuts.

Batwa men operating a traditional oil palm press in the eastern Congo

Here are the ingredients – quantities are pretty much up to you:

Fresh manioc leaves –
Oil palm nuts –
Fresh peanuts –
Leeks
Garlic –
Palm oil
Red pepper –
Salt –
 

Preparation requires a bit of work. First, you must collect a basket of tender manioc leaves:

Tender, young cassava/manioc leaves

Then, you need to pound the manioc leaves into a paste, like this:

Pounding the manioc leaves can take a couple of hours, and is a task often shared by several people.  This is Eileen, daughter of one of the staff, pounding manioc leaves.

In the meantime, send your menfolk off to collect a bunch or two of fresh palm nuts:

Oil Palm nuts. 

You prepare the oil palm nuts by removing the flesh from the kernels and pounding it – then, you squeeze the crushed fibers between your hands, using the liquid, but throwing away the fibers.

Groundnuts you’ll probably have to buy fresh at the local market, unless you raise them yourself:

Groundnuts, not quite ready for harvesting. Source: Global ministries

Shell the groundnuts and crush them into a powder.

The garlic and leeks are not indigenous to central Africa, but were introduced during the colonial period and now are featured in many local dishes.

They are pounded together with the cassava leaves, once the leaves have been fairly well mashed.

The oil palm liquid and groundnut powder is also added and pounded/mixed in.

Some people also add tomatoes and green peppers.

The final mixture looks something like this:

Pounded manioc leaves. Source: shianlotta, flikr

The best way to cook is in a clay pot, but increasingly folks cook in aluminum pots, like this:

Isombe being cooked to the left, goat meat to the right, by project staff preparing for a wedding feast

You can add a little palm oil to the pot – but not too much, because you’ve already extracted some oil with the liquid of the fresh palm nuts.

Isombe y’umwamba (which means manioc leaves with oil palm) is always eaten with a pate – a thick porridge – and often in this manner:

Sorghum pate with isombe y’umwamba as a relish

Isombe is frequently served at the Hotel Lac Tanganyika, by way of presenting a much-loved traditional dish that is highly nutritious – and tasty!

Thanks to Yolanda, who asked me about this recipe here.

 
 
Posted in Africa-General, Cuisine, Food, Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika2, Recipes, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

May 23rd is National Taffy Day

Five Facts about Taffy:  Salt water taffy was “invented” in Atlantic City in 1883. Modern technology allows confectioners to produce 1,000 pieces of taffy a minute. In one hour enough pieces of taf…

Source: May 23rd is National Taffy Day

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أم كلثوم; Umm Kultūm – ‘al-Sitt’ (the Lady of Egypt)

A lovely women!

DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

37 years ago, on the 3rd February, the great Egyptian diva and songwriter – Umm Kalthum – died, well into her 70s.  Last night BBC Worldservice  aired a brief program about her, whichyou can download here.

This remarkable woman, born in a small village in the Delta (northern Egypt), rose to become the most beloved singer of Egypt and is widely considered to be the greatest singer in the Arab world.  She was a living legend, her classical Arabic songs often lasted three hours or more – during which the audience would respond to her singing – an exchange called ‘tarab’ :

“Tarab is a concept of enchantment… usually associated with vocal music, although instrumental music can produce the same effect, in which the listener is completely enveloped in the sound and the meaning in a broad experiential sense, and is just completely carried away by the…

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

Easter season in Egypt

DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

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…

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Meenakshi’s sacred forest

Voices and Visions

selvapandiancloseupIMG_7420 On the left, the forest caretaker, on the right, Mr. Selvapandian.

The sun was warm in early February. The trees were beautiful and tall, having grown up in just a few short years on land that had been completely barren.

Under the expert guidance of Mr. Selvapandian, botanist and Project Manager of the C.P.R. Education and Environmental Centre, fifty acres have been transformed as part of a project of the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Launched in 2006, the project is being carried out by CPREEC on a plot of 300 acres of land owned by the temple, and eventually all these acres will be planted.

Organic vegetables are being grown on the acres near the trees. These are used for the free meals that the Meenakshi Temple provides for people.

treeIMG_7416 2

Ten acres of trees are part of the Nakshatra Rasi Vanam. By donating 1000 rupees, which goes towards the upkeep of…

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THE OLDEST KNOWN COPTIC ICON: CHRIST AND ABBOT MENA

interesting .

ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية

icon2

The oldestknown Coptic icon was found in Bawit in Middle Egypt in 1900 by the French archaeologist Jean Clédat (1871 – 1943) who discovered the large Coptic Monastery of St. Apollo that once stood there.[1] It was gifted by the Egyptian government to France as part of the policy of dividing archaeological finds in 1901-1902, and is kept at the Louvre Museum[2] in Paris.

This most beautiful icon is painting on sycamore fig wood and measures 57 cm in height and 57 cm in width (it is 2 cm in thickness). It is the oldest Coptic icon known to us: although the Louvre dates to the 8th century, that is after the Arab occupation, both Klaus Wessel and Pierre Du Bourguet give an earlier date: the second half of the 6th century[3] and 6th-7th centuries,[4] respectively. It depicts Christ and Abbot…

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The politics of wages & violence in the FARDC

Rachel Strohm

130603114347-richard-mosse-the-enclave-young-soldier-horizontal-gallery.jpg

Photo from Richard Mosse’s series of infrared portraits in eastern DRC

Grant Gordon has a fascinating new working paper which offers a reinterpretation of the connection between violence against civilians and the FARDC’s inability to pay its soldiers wages.  Abstract:

In fragile states, regimes must cultivate military forces strong enough to ward off external threats, but loyal enough to resist launching a coup. This requires that leaders distinguish the loyal from the untrustworthy, a particularly challenging exercise in post-conflict settings with weak institutions. In this study, I explore how Congolese soldiers operating in North Kivu, the largest operational theater in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the epicenter of one of the most violent conflicts in Africa, solve this crucial problem. I argue that leaders use non-payment as a screening strategy that reveals commitment by driving disloyal soldiers to defect and loyal soldiers to endure hard times. This fuels unpaid…

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An Eternal Curse upon the Reader of These Lines (with Apologies to M. Puig)*

In retribution for the ‘prying’ or ‘intrusive curiosity’ inherent in the reading of another’s words, the Argentine novelist Manuel Puig entitled a 1980 work ‘Eternal Curse on the Reader of these Pages.’

The same sentiment appears in Egyptian magic. A Coptic curse preserved in the British Museum (Oriental Ms. 5986) begins with an invocation for divine wrath directed not against its primary victims (who are later damned by name), but against the accidental discoverer:

God of heaven and earth! Whoever shall open this papyrus and read what is written in (it), may all those things written in it descend upon him. 1 A counterpart is provided by the Coptic Papyrus Lichaev, which concludes a specific curse with a similar generic warning:

Whoever opens this papyrus and reads it, what is written on it will come upon him, by order of the lord god.2 Such invocations of divine hostility have their origin well before Coptic [Orthodox] Christianity, in magical practices of Late Period Egypt that exploit the bond between the demonic and the divine.

The distinction between gods and demons in ancient Egypt is often tenuous at best. 3 The ‘trickster’ character of Seth is well-known, but his ambiguous qualities can be shared by other gods as well. In the famous New Kingdom tale of ‘The Contendings of Horus and Seth,’ the conflict is * This was the keynote lecture, presented June 27, 2003, for the first Egyptology symposium held in Greece, “Egyptian Theology and Demonology: Studies on the Boundaries between the Divine and Demonic in Egyptian Magic,” presented at The University of the Aegean, Rhodes. As the publication of the conference proceedings has been delayed by seven years, the text is made available here.  

Source http://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/eternal_curse.pdf

________________

* This was the keynote lecture, presented June 27, 2003, for the first Egyptology symposium held in Greece, “Egyptian Theology and Demonology: Studies on the Boundaries between the Divine and Demonic in Egyptian Magic,” presented at The University of the Aegean, Rhodes. As the publication of the conference proceedings has been delayed by seven years, the text is made available here.

Full text of Ritner’s speech can be fond  here-

 

http://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/eternal_curse.pdf

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