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Life in a Cup: Coffee Culture in the Islamic World

Life in a Cup: Coffee Culture in the Islamic World

Date(s) - 10/27/2021 - 09/18/2022
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British Museum


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Coffee features in the daily routine of millions around the world. Life without it, in one form or another, now seems unimaginable.

As a drink, coffee has its roots in Yemen. From its consumption in Sufi religious orders, the beverage spread along trade and pilgrimage routes throughout the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and the Levant, reaching the capital of the Ottoman empire in the early 16th century.

Coffeehouses emerged as meeting places where people of different social positions, ethnicities and religions could meet on an equal footing around a cup of coffee. This development often led to decrees banning coffee or coffeehouses on the basis that it endangered health and morals and that the gatherings where it was consumed threatened the established social order.

However, fondness for coffee prevailed and continues unabated in many parts of the Islamic world today. It’s present in every aspect of daily life from morning to night, in joyful occasions and in sad ones. Its preparation and consumption are the essence of hospitality and its rituals are governed by strict etiquette.

Life in a cup presents a fascinating beverage story and explores the traditions that make coffee a way of life in parts of the Islamic world.

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