Ask Mehmet: Mesir Macunu

Mesir Macunu has gained the reputation of being the strongest aphrodisiac in Turkey due to its energizing qualities. The Turkish city of Manisa has been holding an annual festival that is based on the elixer since 1540. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dallas Edwards/Released)

Mesir Macunu has gained the reputation of being the strongest aphrodisiac in Turkey due to its energizing qualities. The Turkish city of Manisa has been holding an annual festival that is based on the elixer since 1540. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Dallas Edwards/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Editor's Note: Ask Mehmet is a forum for people to ask questions of the local area, as well as the outer confines of the region and the country as a whole. To submit a question, send an e-mail with the subject "Ask Mehmet" to 39abw.pa@us.af.mil.

Mehmet,

One of my Turkish friends went to the Izmir area two weeks ago. When he came back he gave us a type of spicy gum. He said he got it from the city of Manisa pointing out that it is an elixir and good for everything. I tasted it and it was really spicy. He told me a story about it, but I couldn't understand it. What is the story behind that spicy gum?

The elixir your friend brought you from Manisa is called Mesir Macunu. That elixir has an interesting historical background.

The locals of Manisa, a city close to Izmir, have been holding a "Mesir Macunu" festival for more than 450 years. Each year in April thousands of local people and visitors from other cities gather in front of the 16th century Sultan Mosque where tons of mesir gum, an imperial elixir that once cured Suleiman the Magnificient's ailing mother, is thrown from the rooftops. The gum is wrapped in paper in small quantities. Even that small quantity is believed to be sufficient for its purpose. Crowds scramble for the spicy gum which many believe restores health, youth and potency.

The Ottoman Prince Suleiman, who was later known as Suleiman the Magnificient, was appointed to the governorship of Manisa by the sultan, his father. That was a tradition in the Ottoman system. The crown princes used to be sent to provinces as governors so that they could learn the state administration and trained for their future duties as sultan. Suleiman's mother was expected to accompany her son on the trip, but she was suffering from a serious illness and couldn't be with her son.

Imperial doctors at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul were unable to diagnose the problem; so Suleiman asked the renowned Manisa doctor, Merkez Muslihiddin Efendi, to prepare a cure. Merkez Efendi rose to the challenge, mixing the powerful mesir elixir from 41 different ingredients including saffron, liquorice and mustard. The potion was subsequently dispatched to the imperial palace in Istanbul and the mother made a rapid recovery.

Upon her recovery, Suleiman's mother ordered a mosque to be built in Manisa in appreciation for her recovery. Sultan Mosque complex was built in 1522.

More than 15,000 people, including the deputy Prime Minister who is originally from Manisa, gathered in front of the Sultan Mosque this year to grab a piece of that imperial elixir. Mesir Macunu has gained the reputation of being the strongest aphrodisiac in the country, due to its energizing qualities. Hundreds of kilograms of Mesir Macunu was thrown from the rooftops of the Sultan Mosque. Manisa authorities stated that almost 40 tons of that elixir would be produced this year and about 10 tons of it would be exported to the European countries.

The locals of Manisa have been holding a Mesir Macunu Festival annually since 1540. The recipe has been secretly transferred from generation to generation among the town's ruling class, known only to municipal authorities and officially appointed makers. This year Manisa held the 474th festival. Fifteen years ago it was announced that the formula had been officially approved by the Turkish Pharmaceutical Standars Institues.