Espresso glasses, Fes, Morocco, 2008

These coffee glasses will be familiar to anyone who has spent any idle hours at all in Morocco since they are used at almost every café in the country; the width of the opening is such that some cafés deliver the glasses with two sugar cubes suspended over the coffee end to end, like stone blocks in a medieval arch.  These glasses were purchased in the Fès medina in 2008: eight pieces, wrapped in butcher paper and bound with twine, in a rough carton the size of a shoebox that still carried the smoky, spiced scent of the medina when I unpacked at home it weeks later.  They are a triumph of quotidian design: the small ridge, easy for a glass blower to form, serves to cool the hot drink and provide a purchase on the glass that is more elegant than would be afforded by a handle.  The air bubbles retained in the glass ought to compromise its structural integrity but in my experience they have proven to be commendably durable.  I have seen variants of these glasses in ceramic painted lurid colors that can either be regarded as a clever Pop Art take on Moroccan culture or an unimaginative bastardization of it intended for the tourist trade.  My preference is for the ordinary glasses and I have sets of various sizes in both blue and green glass.

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Click here to read of my exploration of the Fès medina for Le Monde d’Hermès.  Or here to see my photographs of Morocco. Or here for all my posts on the Middle East and North Africa.  Or here to read my survey of the best of the new coffee scene in Paris.

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