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Topic of the Issue
Food Habits in Egyptian Key Events
Saturday, January 5 (issue 1)
by Raymon Kondos

CAIRO ( - Feasts are very much linked to food in Egypt. Egyptians do eat specific types of food on certain occasions. This is something that Egyptians inherited from their ancestors thousands of years ago.
Food also has a symbolic role and in many cases the type of food and drink may not be delicious but in that case would be necessary to obey traditions of a society that is so much adherent to its ancient cultures.

Egyptians eat much kaHk (cookies) in fests,
particularly in Eid El-Fetr

The most remarkable of the Egyptian feasts is Sham El-Nessim, literally "sniffing the breeze" in Arabic. The word "Sham" also has an old origin as the harvest season in ancient Egypt was called "Shamo" in hieroglyphics. Sham El-Nessim is the spring day when people go to outdoors, enjoy Nile cruises and wandering in green spaces. Egyptians have been celebrating the onset of this feast for more than 4500 years, thus making it one of the oldest local festivals in the world.

The majority of Egyptians have the same eating habit on that day. They usually eat colorful hard-boiled eggs at morning, and for lunch they eat different kinds of salted fish, better known as "Feseekh" in Arabic, together with lettuce onion and chickpea.

In ancient Egypt , eggs were symbolizing the renewal of life in the spring season. It was the sacred token of the renovation of the mankind after the flood.

It is believed that ancient Egyptians were the first to dye eggs. On other hand, salted fish symbolizes fertility and welfare. It was sacred to Egyptians, as it comes from the Nile , the source of fertility in Egypt . Lettuce represents the feeling of the hopefulness at the beginning of the spring. Onion was also a sacred plant. They used to join its bulbs in necklaces because they believed it could heal and bless any body.

On Eid Al-Adha, or the Greater Bariam, the Moslem feast of sacrifice, Egyptians eat mutton meat. Slaughter of sheep on the first days of the feast is observed as a religious ceremony that symbolizes Prophet Abraham's sacrifice of his son, here attributed to Ishmael not Isaac.

On Eid El-Fetr, or the Lesser Bariam, Egyptians eat domestic-made cookies and there is tasty variety of them. The feast comes right after the holy fasting month of Ramadan when Moslems break their month-long everyday fasting.

On Prophet Mohamed's birthday anniversary, Egyptians eat sweets. This habit goes back to the Fatimid Era. The most remarkable candy associated with this event is "Arousett El-Mulid" or "the bride of the birthday" made completely of condensed sugar. The candy is a sugar statuette of a fancy dressed girl that varies in size, no wonder why children love it so much.

Copts, the Egyptian native Christians, have their own eating traditions in their own special events also. They observe one of the longest fasting periods among Christians of the world. They usually break their fasting everyday by only the vegetarian types of food. Sometimes seafood is an exception to this.

On Good Friday, some Copts sip vinegar to commemorate Jesus' same experience on the cross.

Also on a special fasting period dedicated to Virgin Mary, Christians eat green soup served cool, known as Molokheyya, as well as bean soup. Finally on Epiphany, Copts eat taro and enjoy soaking up sugarcane. It's said on that day that "He who doesn't eat taro would wake up the next day headless."

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