Tuesday, 31 August 2010

A Description of Ramadan in Cairo 1850's

O Gladness! at length it sounds that gun from the citadel. Simultaneously rises the sweet cry of thr mu'ezzin, calling men to prayer, and the second cannon booms from the Abbasiyah Palace, - "al-Fitar! al-Fitar" fast-breaking! fast-breaking! shout the people, and a hum of joy rises from the silent city. Your acute ears waste not a moment in conveying the delightful intelligence to your parched tongue, empty stomach, and languid limbs. You exhust a pot full of water, no matter its size. You clap hurried hands for a pipe; you order coffee; and provided with these comforts, you sit down, and calmly contemplate the coming pleasures of the evening.

Poor men eat heartily at once. The rich break their fast with a light meal,- a little bread and fruit, fresh or dry, especially watermelon, sweetmeats, or such digestable dishes as "muhallabah,"- a thin jelly of milk, starch, and rice-flour. They then smoke a pipe, drink a cup of coffee or a glass of sherbet, and recite the evening prayers; for the devotions of this hour are delicate things, and while smoking a first pipe after sixteen hours' abstinence, time easily slips away. Then they sit down to the Fatur (breakfast), the meal of the twenty-four hours, and eat plentifully, if they would avoid illness.

There are many ways of spending a Ramazan evening. The Egyptians have a proverb, like ours of the Salernitan school:

" After Al-Ghada rest, if it be but for two moments:
After Al-Asha walk, if it be but two steps."

The streets are now crowded with a good-humoured throng of strollers; the many bent on pleasure, the few wending their way to "Tarawih" prayers. They saunter about, the accustomed pipe in hand, shopping, for the stalls are open till a late hour; or they sit in crowds at the coffee-house entrance, smoking sheishas, (water-pipes), chatting, and listening to story-tellers, singers and itinerant preachers. Here a bare-footed girl trills and quavers, accompanied by a noisy tambourine and a "scrannel pipe" of abominable discordance, in honour of a perverse saint whose corpse insisted upon being buried inside some respectable mans dwelling-house. The scene reminds you strongly of the sonneurs of Brittany and the zampognari from the Abruzzian Highlands bagpiping before Madonna. There a tall, guant Maghrabi displays upon a square yard of dirty paper certain lines and blots, supposed to represent the venerable Ka'aba, and collects coppers to defray the expenses of his pilgrimage. A steady stream of loungers sets through the principal thoroghfares towards the Azbakiyah Gardens, which skirt the Frank quarter; there they sit in moonlight, listening to Greek or Turkish bands, or making merry with cakes, toasted grains, coffee, sugared drinks, and the broad pleasantries of Kara Gyuz ( the local punch and Judy). Here the scene is less thoroughly oriental than within the city; but the appearance of Frank dress amongst the varieties of Eastern costume, the moon-lit sky, and the light mist hanging over the deep shade of the Acacia trees-whose rich scented yellow-white blossoms are popularly compared to the old Pasha's beard-making it passing picturesque. '

from A pilgrimage to Al-Medina and Meccah by Richard Burton

Monday, 30 August 2010

Carved wood

Al-Baha doorway

a photo I took in Al-Baha
 I am completly in love with the beautiful wooden doors of Saudi past. While I know you can buy old originals at auction. I have been trying to find out if any artisans still produce them?

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Our blushing bouganvillea, in the heat of summer flushes pink.

our tate elephant

shadows in our garden

in the entry hall

my mother in laws collection of coffee pots

Its Ramadan, a time for reflection. I seem to be spending alot of time in the kitchen preparing food to break our fast with. I will post later on local dishes and customs for Ramadan, and on Ramadan culture.





Thursday, 5 August 2010

I love....Black and white photography

I love black and white photographs and this is a favorite of mine. My Egyptian Grandma