The last days of Ramadan have always had their own special flavour, distinct from any that comes before or after it. It’s the atmosphere of saying farewell to the holy month and welcoming the cheerful Eid Al-Fitr! The feeling is bittersweet as we’re getting a little tired after a month of fasting but still excited for Eid.
A big part of those last days is preparing for Eid, whether that means buying new clothes, doing the big clean-up, or, closest to our heart, buying or baking kahk. In Cairo’s urban life, most people rely on buying kahk rather than baking it at home. Others compromise by baking a little at home and buying the rest.
There remains an image in our collective memories; running around the tables our mothers and grandmothers prepared kahk on, maybe even being allowed to stamp the designs on them ourselves, the warmth of the kitchen and the aromatic smell of butter and spices surrounding us.
Kahk is a quintessential part of our Eid experience; it has been since before Islam in Egypt! In fact, kahk was essential to our celebrations in Egypt long before the Islamic conquest or even the Christianisation of the country.
Inside 3500-year-old tombs in the ancient cities of Thebes and Memphis (nowadays Luxor, and a site near Cairo, respectively), there are carved depictions of people making kahk. They’re striking in their similarities to their descendants as they gather around in the same way over the same food to celebrate different holidays thousands of years later. There were also recipes of kahk
Before the Islamic conquest of Egypt, when the majority of Egyptians had left the traditional religion for Christianity, kahk was still made to celebrate Easter. But, no matter what changes, only one thing remains constant—our affinity for our moon-shaped, powdered cookies!
Whether we make it at home, prepare it at home and bake it at communal bakeries, or buy ready-made boxes, our enjoyment of it remains, regardless of how it’s made. Especially when we take a bite, close our eyes in delirious happiness, and know that thousands of years ago on this very land around the Nile, a person, dressed differently but looking just like us, bit into their own moon-shaped biscuit and enjoyed it just the same.