The story of Ads Esnnawi, the southern lentil soup

Visit the city of Esna in Southern Egypt and taste it's most iconic dish.

Street market in Esna (2020-09-12) by NawayaNawaya

Welcome to the city of Esna

Esna, the small city on the Nile in the south of Egypt, used to be a major port and a center for trade. Since the times of the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Ottomans, the city of Esna has developed into a flourishing trade industry. 

Women cooking lentil soup (2020-04-18) by Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets” (RECHA) Project.Nawaya

Legumes had a special place in the trade in Esna

Farmers still recall that all kinds of pulses were grown and sold in Esna markets, such as lentils, chickpeas and fava beans. Over the years, farmers switched to other crops, and lentils are hardly grown in Esna anymore. Currently, farmers grow crops with high market demand such as onions and tomatoes. 

Lentils at the heart of the city

Experience Esna and meet the people keeping the original lentil soup recipes of the city alive.   

Cooking yellow lentils (2019-08-28) by NawayaNawaya

Introducing “Ads Essanoui”

Esna is still proud of its lentil soup recipe “ads Essanoui”, which locals say is “better than eating lamb!”. The lentils used are yellow, peeled lentils. The lentils are rinsed and soaked before cooking. 

Baladi salad to serve with the lentil soup (2020-04-18) by Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets” (RECHA) Project.Nawaya

Making the perfect broth

Traditionally women make a broth for the lentils with chopped carrots, zucchini, coriander, onions and tomatoes. 

Cooling the lentil soup before blending it (2020-04-18) by Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets” (RECHA) Project.Nawaya

Cooling down

Once the lentils and vegetables are cooked, the soup is cooled and blended. Using a sieve, the blended soup becomes smooth and flawless. 

Cutting garlic stem (2020-04-18) by Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets” (RECHA) Project.Nawaya

Adding garlic

To complete the lentil soup, garlic is fried in ghee to add the final flavour. Lentil soup is served with hand cut fries, salad and hot chilis. 

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Enjoying “Ads Essanoui”

Lentil soup makes a hearty meal that warms people throughout the winter months. 

Capitals of the Temple of Khnum, Esna (negative 1859–1860; print 1862) by Henry CammasThe J. Paul Getty Museum

Step back in time and tour the old city of Esna

The temple of Khnum is not the only reason to visit Esna. Traders also gathered to buy, sell and exchange goods in the city’s bustling markets. The city’s architecture and palaces reveal the cultural richness of the place, and the luscious lifestyle its people once enjoyed.

Fabric vendor (2020-09-12) by NawayaNawaya

The Wekalet el Jaddawi market

One example is the 18th century Wekalet el Jaddawi, which hosted merchants trading high value commodities of silk textiles, African ivory and ostrich plumes.  

The traditional oil press run by the Bakkur family (2020-09-12) by NawayaNawaya

The Bakkur Oil Press

The Bakkur Oil Press is the last remaining oil press of 30, producing cold pressed sesame, lettuce and arugula seed oil. 

Man weaving using traditional loom (2020-09-12) by NawayaNawaya

Textiles industry

Local agricultural goods were renowned for their quality. Here cotton and silk are locally processed into beautiful textiles.  

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Esna's restaurants

The city boasts of restaurants with dishes from the Southern kitchen. One cannot leave the city without tasting the signature lentil soup. 

Credits: Story

These materials were developed by the “Rediscovering Esna’s Cultural Heritage Assets” (RECHA) Project. The RECHA Project has given us permission to use the materials and distribute any modifications under a similar license.

For more information:

Photos credits to (Xenia Nikolskaya, Amr Abd El-Rahman , Ahmed Dream) @ 2018 Takween-ICD

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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