Friday, 3 February 2012

An Eighteenth Century Turkish coffeehouse

 The first coffeehouse ever was opened in 1554 during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent in the Tahtakale district of Istanbul, a vibrant commercial centre even today. The first people to attend this first coffeehouse were people pursuing the mundane pleasures of idly enjoying the moment (there is a specific word for this in Turkish called ‘keyif'), as well as the educated class of society. Some would come to read in the coffeehouse, others would play backgammon or chess, some would engage in conversations on art and culture.
There were also a number of coffeehouses with decorative pools or fountains during the Ottoman period, as the Ottomans believed in the soothing power of watching water. The coffeehouses were subsidized by the local rich people.

The introduction of tobacco increased these places' popularity tremendously. The powdered tobacco [called 'shisha' ] is smoked through a hookah [narghile]. 
[Picture of narghile courtesy of Ozledim.NET]

Canaries were considered ‘good luck' for Janissary coffeehouses. In big coffeehouses, there would be as many as thirty to forty birdcages.

[All part of my research for 'Scandalous Lady', set in 1811 ]

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