Firstly, Ramadan Kariym to all of you.  Secondly, since 1998, I have intended to comment on an article regarding the history of our national pastry "Kunafah" by historian `Isam `Abd al -Ra'uwf, which appears on our state information Web site.  Every year I have meant to address this, and yet I always seem to forget.  However, this year I feel that I simply must comment on the inaccuracies which this article poses.  I am reproducing below, a segment from the Egyptian State Information web site regarding the history of the "Kunafah," which with due respect, I could not disagree  more with.  Following is the quoted segment, followed by my rebuttal.

"According to historian Essam Abdel-Raouf, the name konafa is derived from one of the Turkic languages and this dessert dish had spread into provincial Syria during pre-lslamic times. It is most popular during the annual Muslim fasting month of Ramadan—which starts around December 20 this year. The tradition started around the year 58 Hijra (early 8th century on the Christian calender), when the Damascus-based Muslim ruler Mu'aweya Bin Abi Sufeyan complained of fatigue and dizziness during Ramadan. He was advised to eat konafa for its high dose of rich, nutritious ingredients like nuts and raisins. Others followed the leader's example, and the Ramadan/konafa connection was born. Fatimids introduced konafa to Egypt when they started ruling the country in 358 Hijra (early 11th century). The Fatimids are credited for introducing several types of dessert to Egypt, and for starting the tradition of serving specific dessert dishes during certain religious occasions, such as Ashoura and Moulid El-Nabi (Prophet Mohamed's Birthday)." `Isam `Abd al -Ra'uwf

Firstly, the author contradicts himself with his comment, as follows: "the dessert dish had spread into provincial Syria during pre-Islamic times."  Actually, it could not have been Turkish in origin since the Arabs did not come in contact with the Turks until the advent of the Umawiy (Umayyad) dynasty and not in the Djahiyliyah, see below:

"Contacts between the Turks and Arabs commenced at the beginning of the 8th century and some of the Turks began to favor Islam. However the pro-Arab policies of the Mayas (661-750 A.D) restricted these relations somewhat. Later, many Moslem Turks took office in the Abbside government and because of this, great interest in the Islamic world spread among the Turks beyond the River Ceyhun. Commercial caravans also played a major role in the spread of Islam into the steppes of Central Asia. The Turks became fully Moslem by the 10th century."

Secondly, while its is true that many of our dessert dishes were extensively mentioned in great detail by al-Maqriyziy in his description of the Fatimiy banquets during Ramadan, it is also a fact that Kunafah and Basbuwsah, in particular, were a part of a long culinary tradition going back to Ancient Egypt (see below).


I hope, that with this new information, we can, beyond any reasonable doubt, put these myths to sleep once and for all.


Wishing you all:

Alf bil hanah wal shifa wa kull Ramdan kariyn wanutm bi-khayr 'In sha' Allah. 

© Ishinan 2005


اسرارالكنافة و البسبوسة




The Egyptian Chronicles is a cooperative effort by a group of Egyptian authors pooling together their talents for the sake of Egypt's Future.  Articles contained in these pages are the personal views and/or work of the authors, who bear the sole responsibility of the content of their work. This Monthly Electronic Magazine is a non-profit, commercial free zone and is answerable to no one.

 THE October 2005 ISSUE



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