Cairo, the World’s First Coffee Capital
Coffee consumption in Egypt developed thanks to the brotherhood of Sufi Islamic mystics, who used it during prayers. The drink soon acquired a social and cultural role: by the end of the 17th century, Cairo already had 643 bayt qahwa, coffee houses which became cultural centres and gathering places. Even today, coffee drinking is an important social occasion for Egyptians, at all levels of society. In many cases, a coffee house becomes a kind of literary circle or political club, but the peaceful, comfortable ambience also makes it an ideal place in which to do business, and in fact many coffee houses can be found in markets, where the traders meet to negotiate. In Egypt, as in Syria, when ordering coffee you also need to say how much sugar you prefer, because sugared water is used in the preparation. You can choose from mildly sweet (arriha), medium-sweet (mazboot), or very sweet (ziyada): bitter coffee (sada) is reserved for sad occasions such as funeral ceremonies.
The recipes
Kahwa bl baharat
Turkish coffee with spices

A spiced version of the classic Turkish coffee, typical of the Egyptian city Alexandria.

2.5 kg roasted and ground Turkish coffee
100 g green cardamom powder
50 g nutmeg powder
25 g clove powder
10 g crumbled resin (maska)
3 espresso cups of water
sugar to taste

Prepare the blend, stirring all the dry ingredients carefully together. In a Turkish coffee maker (kanaka) add three cups of cold water and three heaped teaspoons of the spiced coffee mixture and sugar to taste. Mix well and place over the fire until the coffee begins to boil and a foam of ground coffee forms on the surface. Serve immediately, distributing a few spoonfuls of the foam in each cup and then immediately pouring in the coffee.

Basbousa bil loz
Sweet almond semolina

One of the favourite desserts with Egyptians, it is made with semolina (simeet), preferably served at breakfast with coffee, and possibly with added cream (eshta) or jam.

1 cup semolina
1 cup almonds
180 g butter
A handful of peeled sweet almonds
For the syrup (sharbaat)
3 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
1 lemon, squeezed

Prepare a syrup by boiling the water and sugar with the lemon juice for a few minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the almonds and toast them in the butter along with the semolina for about fifteen minutes, until the ingredients just begin to brown. Transfer the mixture to a buttered metal dish, spread it out thoroughly smoothing the surface, and bake until golden at 180°C (350°F). Remove from the oven and pour the boiling syrup on top.