At Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi, craftsmen create beautiful handmade Arab coffee pots.
The gahwa pot is a symbol of hospitality. It's even depicted on the UAE's 1-dirham coin.
A traditional Arab pot for gahwa displayed in an Abu Dhabi home. In the old days, gahwa pots were placed on hot coals to brew this coffee.
By Claude E. Hammond
(guest blogger, Dr Chris' husband)
This morning it was time to get a new ibrik, or Turkish coffee pot — one of those handled small pots used to create fiercely strong little cups of exquisite coffee. Here in Abu Dhabi, there are plenty of stores where you can buy a factory-made ibrik. But this is the Middle East. Coffee — gahwa in Arabic — was discovered here.
This calls for buying an authentic, hand-made ibrik. We already have a pot for gahwa.
We get our traditional Arab coffee pots made for us by Mohammed, the coppersmith who works at Heritage Village, a cultural attraction found just across the bay from downtown Abu Dhabi, near the National Theatre.
If you should ever be privileged to attend a function at one of the sheikhs’ palaces in Abu Dhabi, there’s a strong possibility Mohammed the coppersmith made the gahwa pots used there. His handiwork is well-known. It was a short drive from Abu Dhabi’s Khalidiyah area, so I went there before work. He made the perfect ibrik and I bought it. Muhammed made both our traditional coffee vessels.
To Arabs, gahwa represents hospitality and Emiratis are famous for being hospitable. This is a very nice thing for us gahwa-lovers. Gahwa pots are even shown on the front of the United Arab Emirates’ one-dirham coin.
Traditional gahwa consists of ground coffee from lightly-roasted beans, mixed with ground cardamom and cloves. The old-fashioned way of brewing gahwa was to sit a large brass or copper gahwa pot on hot coals brewing a mixture of grounds and water to make this delicious beverage. When you visit a traditional Gulf Arab home, business, or hotel, you are often greeted with a small cup of gahwa and a plate of dates.
Gahwa’s northern cousin is Turkish coffee. Turkish coffee is finely-ground dark-roasted beans with no spices mixed in. It’s a different beverage altogether.
Coffee is addictive. The dates you are served in the UAE can be just as addictive. They come in a wide variety of sizes, tastes and colors. Some dates are stuffed with pistachios or candied orange peel. Some have an explosion of flavor that closely resembles caramel while other dates can taste like honey. Dates are usually not pitted, so expect to find a hard seed within when biting one.
In the Middle East, there are two rules of etiquette to follow when you are offered gahwa and dates. Your host will likely assume you want a refill of gahwa. When you’re finished drinking gahwa, hold out your cup and shake it a little. It’s a gracious way of saying “I’ve had enough.”
Secondly, when you eat dates, only take an odd number of them… one, three, five, and so on. It’s bad manners to eat an even number of dates.
Modern science shows that dates are a rich source of potassium. Their natural sugars give energy and are healthier than processed factory-made sweeteners. An old Bedu once told me that all he needed in order to work all day was nine dates for breakfast with gahwa.
I can’t argue with that. We enjoy our new coffee pots.
Dr Chris Baker
Dr. Chris Baker is Past President of the American Orthodontic Society, a pediatric dentist and teacher of orthodontics, An author, dental practice consultant, mentor, and a current or former faculty member of three U.S. dental schools, Dr Chris practices and blogs in beautiful Abu Dhabi, UAE, and glorious Texas, USA.
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© 2019 Dr Chris Baker