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The Secrets of Syrian Dessert

Eid cookies were actually a tradition that started during the rule of the Fatimids. The tradition started with Al fitra which was a gift made from sweet pastries that were handed out on the day of eid al fitr. Al fitra was handed out to courtiers, officials, guardsmen and servants in the great hall of the palace. With time the number of people increased and the palace kitchens could no longer keep up with all the baking required, so the caliph Al Aziz establshed a place dedicated to the production of sweet pastries to be handed out to the public. On the first day of Eid, people would march in celebration until they reached Bab El-Nasr. Then following Eid morning prayers, the state would distribute the cookies. The cookies were decorated with phrases like (kol o oshkor) which means eat and be thankful and (bel shokr tadoom al neam) which means gratitude preserves blessings.

But the maamoul that we have today does not have words on it. However it is usually formed into unique shapes using hand carved wooden moulds with decorative patterns that make the maamoul look special. Those patterns go back in history those patterns actually go further back in history.

The carving of intricate decorative mamoul moulds first appeared in Egypt, Persia and the Levant. Decorative molds have been used to imprint clay and coins long before being used to imprint bread and dough.

The carvings illustrate a great variety of subject matter, such as historical events, religious symbols, romantic motifs, portraits, and even proverbs. These were probably handed down from ancient cultures who worshiped the sun. Historians say that those originated because the Levant is mostly an agricultural community. Farmers made bread and cookies with patterns that celebrate the rain. Rain in a farmer’s book means a good season. Other patterns look like flower petals, leaves and bird nests. Those are traced back to the ancient spring celebrations when people celebrated spring as a symbol of rebirth and new beginnings.

 

Lara Khouli

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