Eating in Jerusalem in the Early Muslim Period
Arab cuisine is based on constant, rather modest, local elements originating with the nomadic Bedouin tribes in the region. Their staples were milk, sheep, and dates. This kitchen was influenced by the encounter with the Sassanian court, which dominated the region in the early seventh century CE. The Sassanians were known for their extravagant customs, reflecting, in turn, vestiges of the social mores of the defunct Roman Empire. The Abassid dynasty, which ruled in Baghdad in the eighth to tenth centuries, known for its affluent and prodigal way of life, brought Arab cuisine to its peak of refinement.
Our knowledge of Jerusalem during the rise of Islam and the conquests of the Umayyad Arabs is extremely scanty. We do not know how much Jerusalem benefited from the culinary efflorescence which characterized the caliph's palaces in Mesopotamia. It is safe to conjecture, though, that quality cooking was restricted to the homes of the city's wealthy elite. Most people continued to subsist on bread, groats, and legumes, accompanied by fruits. The tenth-century, Jerusalem-born Arab geographer al-Muqadasi said: "Whoever lives in Jerusalem gains both the life of the world to come and the life of this world." He describes clean, orderly markets, richly stocked. In particular he notes the quinces and the various types of raisins, as well as bananas, oranges, apples, cheese, and the unrivaled pine nuts. He is also amazed at the honey produced in Jerusalem, since the bees there suck the sage plants.
Mujir a-Din and Ibn Askar also praise the banana, a new fruit that came to the region from India. They remark that eating a banana in the shade of the Dome of the Rock symbolizes the good life in both worlds...
See the recipe for Coriander and Pine Nuts Salad
Source: The Jerusalem Mosaic. Copyright 1995 Hebrew University of Jerusalem -- All Rights Reserved.