Breaking the fast with Arabian coffee

Breaking the fast with Arabian coffee
Ramadhan barista: A man pours coffee into glasses at Menara Mosque in Semarang on June 20. The coffee, which is made using a blend of spices, has been served to break the fast during Ramadhan for years. Photo: The Jakarta Post/ANN

Saturday afternoon was drawing to a close at Menara Mosque in Kampung Melayu, Semarang, Central Java, as a young man skillfully poured boiling water from two wide jars into dozens of cups, preparing coffee for breaking the fast.

"Yes, this is indeed a fast-breaking drink," Nafid said.

Breaking the fast by drinking coffee has been a tradition since 1802 at the mosque, which is also known as Layur Mosque, as it is located on Jl. Layur 33, Kampung Melayu.

This coffee, though, was not just any coffee. It was a special blend mixed with cardamom, lemongrass, pandan leaves, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and, of course, sugar.

"The coffee is local. Only the spices are prepared the way Arabs do. That's why we call it kopi Arab [Arabian coffee]," Abdul Thalib, 52, of the mosque's management said over the weekend.

When the Adzan Maghrib (call for evening prayer) was heard, marking the end of the fast, dozens of the mosque's congregation broke their fast with cups of kopi Arab.

They followed the coffee with snacks and rice meals. All the refreshments were paid for by donations from local people.

"The taste is indeed specific. It's warm. For us, this is a healthy drink thanks to the mixture of spices," said Akbar Ali, a member of the congregation, adding that the coffee had no negative health impacts.

Another mosque-goer, Khalid, concurred, saying that the coffee had been a special way of breaking the fast since he was a child.

Kampung Melayu has been around for centuries. In 1743, it was recorded the area was home to people of many ethnicities, including Javanese, Malays, Arabs, Indians, China, Dayaks from Kalimantan and Madurese from East Java.

The area's development into such a melting pot is down to its situation on the Berok River, also known as the Semarang River. As a port city, many merchants resided in villages near the port. Trading vessels once sailed up and down the Semarang River.

A Yemeni merchant then built a mosque on the banks of the river. Its tall tower lead it to be called the Menara Mosque; in Javanese, Menara means tower or minaret.

Later, during the war for Indonesian independence, fighters made use of the tower to surveil the beach.

Locals claim that the tower began to subside as a result of the tides, but five ulema managed to correct the slant.

"Praise be to God, the tower was straightened. After that, there was a renovation ," said a local, Muhammad Rusli, who is of Dayak - Madurese descent.

The mosque is relatively small. As such, the male congregation worships upstairs, while women pray in a separate building.

The wooden mosque initially had two usable floors, but the ground floor is now disused after frequent flooding from high tides.

It was later elevated and its foundation raised two meters to prevent it from being submerged during floods.

The mosque has a three-tiered, crown-shaped roof. Following renovation, it uses roof tiles instead of a shingle dome as most traditional-style mosques mostly have. The roof looks strong and well maintained.

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