Cats have been much in the local news of late: current estimates suggest that one third of feline fatalities on the island are due to what’s commonly known as Cat Covid. And this comes on top of the recent announcement that the Veterinary Services are set to launch a neutering programme to deal with the island’s millions of stray cats.
So this week, in honour of our feline friends, we thought we’d take a look at the original Cat Nation. The place where people once shaved off their eyebrows when their cats passed away, and where killing a cat was punishable by death – Egypt.
That, of course, was thousands of years ago; Ancient Egypt was known for being a cat-worshipping culture. Fast forward to the modern-day nation, and things are a little different. Like Cyprus, Egypt has a stray cat problem, and though felines are generally valued and cherished they’re no longer worshipped in quite the same way.
But one thing that has remained constant is Egypt’s love of food. Take ful medames for example. One of the country’s most iconic dishes, this is a recipe that’s hardly changed in millennia: even today, this tasty concoction still consists of the fava beans, olive oil, and cumin (garnished with lemon juice, onion, parsley, and cumin) the nation’s forebears once enjoyed.
Egypt is famed for its street food. Koshari is a particular favourite – come lunchtime, you’ll see locals lined up for their portion of rice, macaroni and lentils, topped with tomato sauce, garlic vinegar and garnished with chickpeas and fried onions. Or a quick kofta – a rolled meat kebab that sees spiced, minced beef grilled on a skewer for a taste explosion.
Also on the menu is ta’ameya, commonly known as ‘Egyptian falafel’. In most areas of the Middle East, falafel is made from ground chickpeas. In this nation, it generally consists of dried fava beans, usually served with pita bread, tomato, onions, and tahini sauce.
There’s also fiteer baladi (Egyptian pizza); mulukhiyah, a green soup made from mallow leaves that’s often enjoyed with rabbit or lamb; and baked pigeon stuffed with seasoned rice or bulgur wheat. And desserts include baklava (syrup-drenched, nut-filled filo pastries), kanefeh (a syrup-soaked cake made with semolina noodles), and mahalabiya (rosewater-flavoured ground rice topped with toasted nuts and cinnamon).
Once upon a time, the Ancient Egyptians may have revered cats. Today, it’s the food that’s worth worshipping!