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In 1587, a writer named Abd al-Qazir Al-Jaziri wrote a history of coffee, under the title Umdat al safwa fi hill al-qahwa. The Arabic word qahwa, said to mean both "coffee" and "wine", is the root of our word "coffee," through the Turkish word kahve, as referenced in this bilingual website. The standard story of coffee is that it originated in Ethiopia, was traded across the Red Sea to Yemen through the port of al-Mukha (Mocha, get it?), whence it made its way up the shipping routes to Mecca and Medina, and from there to Cairo, Constantinople, Vienna, Paris, Italian towns, and London. Since this all happened during the period just prior to release of Abd al-Qazir Al-Jaziri's book, one would like to read it, or at least a translation.
Like Turkish coffee at the bottom of the cup, the plot thickens. It turns out that a partial translation was made by a Frenchman named Antoine Galland, it's available through an Amazon affiliate, and I ordered it. More about that when I get it and read it.
Meanwhile, the Wikipedia and many other websites have identified the author of the coffee history as Malaye Jaziri, a Kurdish poet who wrote in the Iranic language called Kumanji. The Kurdish poet was reportedly born in 1570 and would have been seventeen when the coffee book came out, plus, he would have to be pretty familiar with Arabia, so frankly, I doubt that Abd al-Qazir Al-Jaziri and Malaye Jaziri are one and the same, Wikipedia to the contrary notwithstanding. What is paticularly intriguing to me about al-Jaziri's history is the role of coffeehouses in sixteenth-century Mecca, where the infamous Khair Beg Incident took place: an abortive ban on coffee by the Turkish governor of Mecca.
All of the above led me to the question, what is the current status of coffehouses in Mecca (Al-Makkah, Saudi Arabia, destination of Moslem pilgrims worldwide)? After a long, frustrating fershlugginer Internet search, I learned relatively little, but I did find out that: 1) Tea houses abound in Mecca. 2) The Makkah Hilton has the Al Fayhaa Coffee Shop which serves Arabic style coffee, and may have a Starbucks; 3)There are many Starbucks stores in Saudi Arabia, including Medina and in a mall in Jidda, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from Mecca; 4) A coffeehouse in Wales (go figure!) is named after Mecca, and 5) Seattle's reputation is growing as the American coffee mecca. Be that as it may, and bearing in mind that as a non-Muslim, I do not expect to be able to visit any coffeehouses in Mecca, as a coffee-maven, and as a coffee history buff, I would like to think that Mecca is still the real coffee mecca.Permanent Link to This Entry | | | Technorati Tag: Mecca
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