Culture of Coffee and Coffeehouses in Egypt within the Framework of Evliya Celebi's Book of Travels

Baykal N., Agildere S. T.

MILLI FOLKLOR, no.130, pp.145-155, 2021 (AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Journal Name: MILLI FOLKLOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.145-155
  • Keywords: Turkish coffee, Intangible cultural heritage, Africa, Book of Travels, 17th century
  • Ankara Haci Bayram Veli University Affiliated: Yes


The saying "Coffee comes from Yemen" gives information about the origin of Turkish coffee and is well known in Turkey, being quoted in a folk song in Turkish. However, Egypt being an important stop on the coffee trade route from Yemen to Istanbul is not well known. Cairo, the administrative center of Egypt, and other port cities were important stops for the coffee trade, as well as places where coffee was extensively consumed. Since African cultures and civilizations are not generally the focus of studies on the Ottoman Empire, the number of studies on the period when the Ottoman Empire ruled the Mediterranean and Red Sea coasts of Africa is quite small. Cultural studies, in particular, is also a neglected field in Ottoman-African research. However, since Egypt was a key location in the coffee trade and played an important role in the introduction of "Turkish coffee culture and tradition," inscribed to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013, to different cultures, studying the culture of coffee and coffeehouses in Egypt is of utmost importance. In this regard, Evliya Celebi's Book of Travels is a unique source. Evliya Celebi, who lived in the 17th century and traveled to various places from Europe to the Caucasus and from the Arabian deserts to Egypt, brought together his observations in his Book of Travels. This is an exceptional source on the history of coffee trade and culture, describing the culture of coffee and coffeehouses in Egypt in detail, including narratives about the emergence of coffee and the religious views on coffee consumption, depicting coffee as appealing and accessible to all segments of society, detailing the elements considered important in coffee presentation, and explaining the functions of coffeehouses. While traveling throughout Egypt, Evliya Celebi counted at least one coffeehouse at almost every single stop, he emphasized the gatherings for entertainment held in relatively larger coffeehouses in big cities, and he described coffee culture as a sine qua non for people of all levels. For this reason, in this study, the text of Evliya Celebi's Book of Travels is evaluated as a compilation and the culture of coffee and coffeehouses in Egypt is discussed in a comprehensive way. Evliya Celebi's text is compared here with other travel writings of historically similar periods, and the descriptions of Evliya Celebi are evaluated together with archival documents. Thus, this study aims to fill an important gap in the historical adventures of this beverage, which is still a part of our lives today, by crossing centuries and the boundaries of prohibitions.