Monday, 4 February 2013

Winter warmers

Fenugreek with milk
Cinnamon with milk

Another haunt of ours is القهوة التجارية | ilʔahwa_ttugariyya (which translates to something like The Commerical Coffeehouse), a bustling institution covering a whole block just down the road from the last one I mentioned. It's been an informal centre of trade for the past ninety-odd years and it was here over a glass of tea that we signed the contract on our latest flat (the third one this year, but that's a story for another post).

A cloud of shisha smoke seems to hold up the high ceiling, and between there and the sawdust-strewn tiled floor echoes a constant clamor of dominoes and backgammon counters.

The waiters pretend they've never heard of Coca-Cola, and seeing as the menus are unwritten, often I can only guess what we're ordering, sometimes still guessing as I get up to pay. The drinks seem to change seasonally and at this cold time of year, we've been presented with various herbal infusions and steaming hot milky drinks, each going for about 3LE.

My favourite is salep, a thick, sweet drink made from the ground, dried roots of the orchid, and topped with crushed nuts, raisins and shredded coconut. Aniseed infusion, meanwhile, has been knowingly prescribed to us on several occasions as a miracle cure for everything from a cold to chronic colitis.

سحلب saḥlab salep (see above)
ينسون yansūn aniseed infusion
حلبة ḥilba fenugreek infusion
قرفة ʔirfa cinnamon infusion
نعناع niʕnāʕ mint infusion
كركديه karkadēh hibiscus infusion

It's common to find some of these drunk with milk too:

باللبن ... bi-llaban ... with milk
بالحليب ... bi-lḥalīb ... with milk

Or even just:

حليب ... ḥalīb milky ... (i.e. ... with milk)

Arabists reading this post might be interested in knowing that حلبة | ḥilba | fenugreek and حليب | ḥalīb | milk, despite all appearances, aren't from the same root. I hope this coincidence makes you just as a excited as it made me.

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