The word coffee derives from the Arabic gahwa, and much like the drink, the word itself was adapted as it moved westward. Legend has it that coffee was first discovered in present day Ethiopia by a goat herder named Kaldi whose “dancing goats” alerted him to the stimulant. From Ethiopia, the magic bean spread to Yemen, then through the Levant before making its way to Europe and Asia.
Arabic coffee is imbued with tradition, with elaborate rituals surrounding the preparation, serving and consumption. Younger members of a family prepare and serve coffee in a dallah, the distinctively shaped pot, offering it to the senior most member of the gathering before moving from right to left. The traditional cup (finjan) is handed over with the right hand (never the left), and filled a third of the way. Guests nibble on a date or something sweet with their coffee, and when they’ve had enough, they gently shake the finjan from side to side.
Coffee culture also has its beginnings in the Arab world, along with the inception of coffee houses – hubs for discourse and the sharing of ideas. This tradition continues in the majlises which remain a staple of present day Qatari society. Harkening to Bedouin days, the majlis is traditionally a male-only space, where the leader of a tribe and his male family members discuss marriage, politics, finances and adjudicate any disputes, lubricated by free-flowing gahwa. Younger Qataris meanwhile have embraced coffee in all its permutations, and Doha is home to a multitude of specialty coffee shops, some of which offer modern twists on Arabic coffee (iced gahwa, anyone?)