Whilst young Egyptians have recently been fascinated by the Fijian culture, traditions and exotic tropical islands on Facebook's Fijian Food Safari, the whole world has forever been intrigued and in awe of ancient Egyptian history, its pharaoh mummies and of course the magnificent pyramids.
Egypt is one of the world's oldest civilizations, with archeological records dating its formation as far back as 3150BC, with enormous achievements in quarrying, surveying and construction techniques that facilitated the building of the monumental pyramids and temples using a system of mathematics to ensure precise measurements and angles. They developed herbal medicines, irrigation systems for farming, and the first known wooden ships. In recent decades, a renewed respect for their history has led to the scientific and forensic study of the Egyptian civilization and a far greater appreciation of its cultural legacy that the rest of the world now enjoys.
On one of my trips back to Australia last year I was very privileged to see the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs exhibition in Melbourne. The name King Tut has instant recognition in most of the world today, however prior to the discovery of his tomb in 1922, people were unfamiliar with this pharaoh. Known as the boy king, as he died in his late teens, Tut was born in 1341 BC.
When the young prince ascended to the throne at the age of 8, he was influenced by the king makers and consuls to restore the kingdom back to its former glory of traditional religion and one God, after his father had previously replaced the old religion and moved its administrative cities away from the places associated with their worshipped gods. King Tut reigned for only about nine years, as he died young under mysterious circumstances, but he has become famous the world over because his tomb was uncovered in almost perfect condition. More than 10 million people have visited this exhibition across the world to witness Tutankhamun's golden coffin, the gold crown found on his head, and the many ancient artifacts and art found in the once-hidden tomb of the pyramids.
The great pyramids were built by slaves using a series of pulleys and hard labour to move gigantic and heavy limestone bricks from the quarry to their intended locations.
To sustain their energy, the workers survived on a diet of onions, garlic, coarse bread and beer. Yes, beer! Beer was an important part of ancient Egyptian society and enjoyed by both adults and children, as the ancient Egyptian beer was not as intoxicating but was thick, sweet and nutritious. Their gods were often made offerings of beer and wages for the pyramid builders were often paid in beer and other staple foods.
According to Egyptian legend, one of their God's, Osiris, taught ancient Egyptians the art of brewing beer using bread made from yeast, malt and barley.
Today's modern Egyptian diet still includes bread, but is supplemented by tomatoes, eggplant, beans, lentils, pasta, rice and okra. Egyptian cuisine is filled with many different ways for Fijians to enjoy new flavours using the local produce. Bindi, as we know it in Fiji, was cooked in many ways and today I share an ancient Egyptian recipe for okra stew, using easy to find ingredients from our markets.
Another popular Egyptian dish I am sharing with readers is hummus. I love Hummus, a classic Middle Eastern dip eaten with pita bread, crackers or raw vegetables, and is a very nutritious and healthy snack that can be eaten at all times of the day. It is simple to prepare and is highly recommended to give to children for school instead of eating too many roti parcels, which can make you feel heavy, sleepy and harder for children to concentrate at school.
Hummus contains lots of crucial nutrients, most of which come from the tahini sesame seed paste. It has packed full of important minerals, vitamins and 20 essential amino acids including Omega-3. Omega-3's have been scientifically proven to be good for heart disease, high blood pressure and its high antioxidant properties are said to help reduce some cancers and mood anxieties like depression and anxiety. It is also good for diabetics as it has a glycemic index (GI) of between 10-15, so it won't increase glucose levels in your blood, especially when eaten with raw vegetables, and not bread! Like all foods, it should be eaten in moderation as a 100gm serve can contain up to 200 calories - but at least most of this is good fat with the Omega-3.
Ancient Egypt has left a lasting legacy on the world, with its monumental ruins and antiquities inspiring the imaginations of travellers and writers for centuries across the globe. And now some of their traditional, ancient and healthy recipes can be enjoyed by Fijians.
* Follow Chef Seeto's adventures in Fiji at his Facebook page Fijian Food Safari and his website www.fijianfoodsafari.com Egyptian