It is hard to find a house anywhere in the world that doesn’t have sugar in the pantry, but in Egypt, molasses is the number one sweet treat. This is particularly true of Upper Egypt (the southern half of the country), the site of many sugar cane plantations.
Also referred to as black treacle, molasses is formed as a byproduct of refining sugar cane, according to Raef Abdul Salam, who discusses his family business in an interview with Al-Shorfa.
Abdul Salam’s father ran a plantation and sugar cane mill in Upper Egypt, and when he died, the family decided to split up the business. One son runs the plantation, another oversees operations at the mill, and Abdul Salam is the salesman.
He packs ceramic jars filled with a mix of sesame paste and black treacle and rides around Cairo on a motorbike. One jar fetches just $1.07.
Cheaper than honey, according to Abdul Salam, but packed with calories, the sticky sweet molasses is a staple for Egyptian families. But it is also has other applications.
Used in beauty products, such as hair strengtheners, and in pastries and sweets, molasses is said to be a natural cough suppressant, and also wards off anemia and indigestion.
At least, that is what his father used to say.
Sadly, sugar cane production has declined in recent years as more farmers are using their land for more profitable crops, says the salesman, yet molasses remains in rich demand.
While regular refined sugar has repeatedly shown itself to be a natural enemy of the body, black treacle is one of the few sweeteners that have nutritional benefits. It is a source of iron and calcium and also contains potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and selenium.
There is an old piece of wisdom, says Abdul Salam. “If you want to live a long life, you should take four spoonfuls of black treacle a day.”
Image of man pouring molasses on corn bread, Shutterstock