Batt bel Marta: Port Said Ramadan Duck

Learn more about Port Said and their signature meal inspired by the European turkey tradition.

Duck dish (batt bel marta) (2020-08-26) by NawayaNawaya

Introducing the Port Said Ramadan duck

The people of Port Saidi celebrate the end of Ramadan with the traditional meal Batt bel Marta. Foreigners went through great effort to upkeep their Christmas Turkey tradition. This food culture remains and has been adapted by the Muslim residents of Port Said until today.

Port Said (2018-12-07) by NawayaNawaya

Welcome to Port Said

As a key port city on the major trade routes a cosmopolitan population has settled in Port Said. Port Said was built from the ground up, at the time of the Suez canal. A monumental moment that allowed ships to cut across Egypt, on their trade routes between Europe, Africa, Arab gulf, India and Eastern Asia. Port Said became a magnet for all types of traders, businessmen and investors, and increased from a near zero population to 10,000 inhabitants within a couple of years.  

Street dancing in Port Said (2014-04-21) by NawayaNawaya

Celebrating cultures and diversity

The new Port city thriving trade activities in the late 1800s attracted Jews, Greeks, Italians, Maltese, French, British, Scottish, Swiss working across diverse sectors. Port Said inhabitant opened specialised shops, markets and services creating a rapidly expanding melting pot of cultures. 

Top Afri (N) Egypt Port Said & Suez Canal 20 (1805)LIFE Photo Collection

Influences by trade

Many small scale entrepreneurs sold their products directly to trade ships as they passed through on their journey. 

By Larry BurrowsLIFE Photo Collection

A rich patchwork of cultures

The melting pot grew more into a large patchwork of cultures, whereby cultural, religious or language barriers, made it so that Europeans exchanged more time with each other. Local Egyptians and Arab traders, similarly expanded more time. Port Said over time, evolved into two main neighborhoods: the Arabic quarters and the Foreigners quarters. 

Top Afri (N) Egypt Port Said Town 20LIFE Photo Collection

Past cross-cultural experiences

Decades later, even after the original inhabitants of the city departed due to war and the forced immigration. The Port Said cuisine food still bears the influences of these past cross-cultural experiences. 

Stuffing duck fully to make Batt bel marta (2020-08-26) by NawayaNawaya

How to cook Batt bel Marta

Many Egyptian households, in different parts of the country, eat duck on special occasions, but traditionally none of them stuff their ducks. 

This Port Said style duck is uniquely stuffed with onions, replicating the western style stuffed turkeys. So while people from the Foreigners quarters had their stuffed turkey at Christmas, their neighbors in the Arabic quarters would have stuffed ducks on the commencement of Ramadan.  

Duck dish (batt bel marta) (2020-08-26) by NawayaNawaya

The perfect meal

As turkey is not part of the traditional Egyptian cuisine, foreign residents went through great effort to source turkey meat for their holiday feast. 

Batt bel marta - a lunch feast in Port Said (2020-08-26) by NawayaNawaya

In search for a local bird

The Egyptian with their own religious celebrations looked for a local bird to mark their own religious calendar and they found their answer in the duck. So a new tradition took root to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan by breaking the fast of the first day of the holy month eating duck.

Batt bel marta - duck stuffed with onions and served with rice vermicelli (2020-08-26) by NawayaNawaya

Ready to be enjoyed!

The duck is carved like a turkey served alongside its onion stuffing. It would not be uncommon to wait until next Ramadan to celebrate the start of the holy month with Batt bel Marta.

Credits: Story

Curator: Laura Tabet
Research: Hashim Morsy, Dalia Bassiouny
Photography: Hashim Morsy, Waleed Montasser

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.
Explore more
Related theme
Taste of Egypt
From pharaoh foods to contemporary cuisine, get a taste of Egypt's food culture
View theme
Google apps