THE character of the oriental coffee-shop is not limited to Cairo. Throughout Syria, and wherever there are pipes, coffee, and Mussulmans, it is the resort of the idler. Cairo contains more than a thousand coffee-shops. They are generally small, open in front, sometimes with arched lattice-work. They have usually a low bench, covered with matting along the front except at the door, and there are similar low seats on two or three sides within, where those who occupy them are at once the observed and observers of all passers-by. Musicians frequent them, and the Story-teller is generally found there, who for hours together will secure the attention of an audience chiefly composed of tradesmen and the working classes. The hardy artisan, after his day's labour, is a frequent visitor, and the proprietor is esteemed and important personage, to whom all show respect. He is observed here pouring out the beverage which is nowhere so productive of enjoyment as in the East. A large copper pot is always simmering over a charcoal fire, to be served hot; this, and the cups arranged near him, seem to constitute his whole stock in trade and furniture, for chairs are not required for those who sit cross-legged on the ground or a low seat. In the group, our Artist has introduced one of a frequent class of listeners, who is blind from the scourge of the Egyptians, ophthalmia; he resorts to the coffee-shop for the news of the day, or to listen to the story of some narrator.

The visitors generally bring their own pipes and tobacco, but an intoxicating preparation of hemp is often smoked, and can be obtained in the low coffee-shops; the properties of this plant were known to Galen, and even mentioned by Herodotus as used by the Scythians to produce inebriating effects. When even taciturn Turks and Arabs become excited and boisterous in these coffee-shops, it is due chiefly to the intoxicating fumes of this preparation of hemp.

Lane's Modern Egyptians