Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A Coffee Revolution in Egypt


From Aden, the use of coffee extended to Mecca, Medina and other cities and towns of Arabia, the knowledge and taste for it rapidly spreading outwards from that country to Syria and Persia. Public coffeehouses being everywhere established, also in many of the other countries in western Asia, affording, according to one authority, " a lounge for the idle and a relaxation for the man of business, where the politician retailed the news of the state ; the poet recited his verses, and the Mollahs  delivered their sermons to the frequenters." But the  mania for coffee becoming so great about this period,  particularly in Syria, that an effort was made by authority  of the government to check, if not to entirely suppress, the further growth of its consumption among the inhabitants, on the alleged ground of " its intoxicating properties," but in reality because of its use leading to social and festive gatherings, incompatible with the strictness and teaching of the Mahometan religion.

From Syria the use of the "benign potation," as it was then termed, reached Cairo about 1510, being received with equal avidity in that city, so much so that in that year its indiscriminate use was prohibited on religious grounds, also by Khaine Beg, the then governor of the city. In his proclamation forbidding the use of coffee, it was assailed by him as " having an inebriating effect, and of producing inclinations condemned by the Koran." This edict was, however, rescinded by his successor, Causin, soon after his assuming the governorship. But another effort was made to suppress its use in 1523 by the chief priest, Abdallah Ibrahim, who denounced its use in a sermon delivered in the mosque of Haffanainea violent commotion being produced among the populace, the opposing factions coming to blows over its use. The governor, Sheikh Obelek, a man wise in his generation and time, then assembled the mollahs, doctors and others of the opponents of coffee-drinking at his residence, and after listening patiently to their tedious harangues against its use, treated them all to a cup of coffee each, first setting the example by drinking one himself. Then dismissing them, courteously withdrew from their presence without uttering a single word. By this prudent conduct the public peace was soon restored, and coffee was ever afterward allowed to be used in Cairo. 


~ Joseph. M. Walsh
Coffee - Its History, Classification and Description, (1894)

PS: Aden is a seaport in Yemen.

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