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Cannabis in Egypt is illegal, but its use is a part of the common culture in the country for many people. Large-scale smuggling of cannabis is punishable by death, while penalties for possessing even small amounts can also be severe. Despite this, enforcement of the law is lax in many parts of Egypt, where cannabis is often consumed openly in local cafes.
Evidence has suggested that cannabis was present in Egypt since circa 5000 BP. However, whether or not it was used for psychoactive purposes during this time has not been documented. It was stated in a book written in 1980 that cannabis cultivation has occurred in Egypt for "almost a thousand years". During this time, cannabis was used for making rope and it was also cultivated for use as a drug. Cannabis has been utilized in Egypt for hashish production for at least the last "eight or nine centuries".
It has been stated that hashish was introduced to Egypt by "mystic Islamic travelers" from Syria sometime during the Ayyubid dynasty in the 12th century CE. Hashish consumption by Egyptian Sufis has been documented as occurrent in the thirteenth century CE, and a unique type of cannabis referred to as Indian hemp was also documented during this time. At this time, the Indian hemp was described as having been called hashishab, as only been seen (by the writer) in Egypt, and as having been grown in gardens. Enforcement against cannabis dates back as early as around the 14th century, when cannabis users in Egypt could be punished by having their teeth pulled out.
In the 18th century, a French army officer wrote that due to the use of hashish “the mass of [Egypt’s] male population is in a perpetual state of stupor!” During Napoléon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt in 1798, alcohol was not available per Egypt being an Islamic country. In lieu of alcohol, Bonaparte's troops resorted to trying hashish, which they found to their liking. As a result of the conspicuous consumption of hashish by the troops, the smoking of hashish and consumption of drinks containing it was banned in October 1800, although the troops mostly ignored the order. Subsequently, beverages containing hashish were banned in Egyptian cafes; cafes that sold them were shut down and "boarded up", and their proprietors were jailed. During this time, hashish imported from other countries was destroyed by burning. Upon the end of the occupation in 1801, French troops brought supplies of hashish with them back to France.
In 1887 the British occupied Egypt, which remained nominally an autonomous Ottoman province but de facto British controlled. Soon after the Egyptian government issued an 1884 ban on cultivation, though officials were permitted to confiscate and export captured hashish rather than destroy it. Despite these measures, production and sale of cannabis continued, with authorities routinely shutting down premises where cannabis was consumed, into the 20th century.
Cannabis is grown throughout the year in the Sinai Peninsula and in Upper Egypt. The trade is largely focused in Sinai, and the area has been the main target of eradication efforts, with 7 million cannabis plants (along with 10.3 million opium plants) eradicated there in 1994.
In 1800, French troops in Egypt noted that the Muslim locals both smoked the "seeds" of the hemp plant, as well as making a beverage from hemp. A number of cannabis preparations combined with other psychoactive plants have been recorded in Egypt, including bosa (cannabis combined with bearded darnel) and a waterpipe smoking blend combined with henbane. The gozah is the traditional Egyptian water-pipe; a 1980 Egyptian study noted that smoking was the most popular method of cannabis consumption (89.4% of those surveyed), with the majority of smokers using the water-pipe. A 1925 report noted that hashish that is "mixed with sugar and cooked with butter and flavoring, is made into the candy known in Egypt as manzul, maagun, and garawish".
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