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 centers 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 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.