Manisa Mesir Macunu
My February travels have taken me to Manisa, about one hour by train from Izmir. This city is known for its booming industrial activity and its psychiatric hospital. I wasn’t much interested in either and wandered through the streets instead enjoying the feel of a different place.
Upon recommendation of my Turkish friend, I purchased a package of Manisa Mesir Macunu.
This is a traditional Mesir paste product dating back to the Ottoman times. The legend says that a lady called Ayşe Hafsa Sultan fell ill after the death of her husband, Yavuz Sultan Selim. Since no doctor could find a cure, her son, Suleyman the Magnificient, consulted an expert who mixed 41 different types of herbs and spices into a medicinal paste.
After eating the paste, Ayşe Hafsa miraculously recovered from her illness. She then wanted to share this medicine with others and thus the yearly Mesir Celebration came into existence. On March 22nd, the beginning of the spring, the healing paste was distributed to the people. Since then, every year around the same time, thousands of people come together in front of the Sultan Mosque in order to fetch their Mesir paste that is wrapped in colorful paper and thrown from the roof of the mosque. This tradition has come to be known as the spring festival Newroz.
The miraculous paste contains anise, black cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, coconut, ginger, mustard seed, orange peel, saffron and vanilla, just to name a few of its numerous ingredients. It is a yummy mix, I liked it.
When I came home and offered my friends some of my recently purchased Manisa spice sticks they laughed at me since the mix is said to have aphrodisiac effects. Oh well, it’s always nice to try out something new, isn’t it?
What else to do in Manisa:
Explore some of the various Ottoman mosques.
Eat Manisa kebabı.
Visit Niobe, the “Weeping Rock”.