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Mazaher (or ma’zaher), or orange blossom (or orange flower) water, is a distillate of the flowers of bitter orange trees which are common to the coastal regions of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. Bitter orange are also known as “bigarade” or “Seville oranges” (Citrus aurantium L.) or “busfeir” in Lebanon. Mazaher is used to flavour both foodand drinks (Davidson, 1999).

According to al Ghazi (2001), Mazaher production was promoted with the invention of the alembic during the Umayyad caliphate (AD 661-750), and rapidly became widespread. Mazaher is especially associated with the celebration of the beginning of Muharram, the Islamic New Year, when rice and milk desserts flavoured with orange blossom water and rose water (roz b-haleeb) feature in traditional holiday meals.

Mazaher is a common ingredient in the sugar syrup (qatr) that accompanies many Lebanese and Arabic pastries. It is used as a flavouring for tea and coffee and is also consumed diluted with water. The Lebanese “white coffee” is made by adding a teaspoon of orange blossom water to a cup of boiling water. It is thought to aid digestion and is soothing before sleep. Mazaher also has folk medicine uses, and is sprayed onto the faces of people who feel ill or who faint.

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Spices, wild herbs and condiments

Nominated by:Convivium Slow Food Beirut