Told in the Coffee House cover

Told in the Coffee House

Allan Ramsay (1866-1932)

1. Preface
2. How the Hodja Saved Allah
3. Better is the Folly of Woman than the Wisdom of Man
4. The Hanoum and the Unjust Cadi
5. What Happened to Hadji, a Merchant of the Bezestan
6. How the Junkman Travelled to Find Treasure in his own Yard
7. How Chapkin Halid Became Chief Detective
8. How Cobbler Ahmet Became the Chief Astrologer
9. The Wise Son of Ali Pasha
10. The Merciful Khan
11. King Kara-Kush of Bithynia
12. The Prayer-Rug and the Dishonest Steward
13. The Goose, the Eye, the Daughter, and the Arm
14. The Forty Wise Men
15. How the Priest Knew that it Would Snow
16. Who was the Thirteenth Son?
17. Paradise Sold by the Yard
18. Jew Turned Turk
19. The Metamorphosis
20. The Calif Omar
21. Kalaidji Avram of Balata
22. How Mehmet Ali Pasha of Egypt Administered Justice
23. How the Farmer Learned to Cure his Wife
24. The Language of Birds
25. The Swallow's Advice
26. We Know not What the Dawn May Bring Forth
27. Old Men Made Young
28. The Bribe
29. How the Devil Lost His Wager
30. The Effects of Raki

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In the course of a number of visits to Constantinople, I became much interested in the tales that are told in the coffee houses. These are usually little more than rooms, with walls made of small panes of glass. The furniture consists of a tripod with a contrivance for holding the kettle, and a fire to keep the coffee boiling. A carpeted bench traverses the entire length of the room. This is occupied by turbaned Turks, their legs folded under them, smoking nargilehs or chibooks or cigarettes, and sipping coffee. A few will be engaged in a game of backgammon, but the majority enter into conversation, at first only in syllables, which gradually gives rise to a general discussion. Finally, some sage of the neighborhood comes in, and the company appeals to him to settle the point at issue. This he usually does by telling a story to illustrate his opinion. Some of the stories told on these occasions are adaptations of those already known in Arabic and Persian literature, but the Turkish mind gives them a new setting and a peculiar philosophy. They are characteristic of the habits, customs, and methods of thought of the people, and for this reason seem worthy of preservation.