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An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians$

Edward William Lane

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9789774165603

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774165603.001.0001

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(p.533) Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneys

(p.533) Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneys

An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians
American University in Cairo Press

OF the measures and weights used in Egypt, I am not able to give an exact account; for, after diligent search, I have not succeeded in finding any two specimens of the same denomination perfectly agreeing with each other, and generally the difference has been very considerable: but in those cases in which I have given the minimum and maximum, the former may be received as approximating very nearly to the just equivalent. The tradesmen in Egypt, from fear of the Moḥtesib, mostly have measures and weights a little exceeding the true standards, though stamped by the government, which takes care to have such measures and weights employed in the purchases which it makes, and equal care, no doubt, to use those which are more true in selling.

Measures of Length and Land.

The “fitr” is the space measured by the extension of the thumb and first finger.

The “shibr” is the common span, measured by the extension of the thumb and little finger. (p.534)

The “diráạ beledee” (or “cubit of the country”—the common Egyptian cubit), which is used for measuring the linen, &c., manufactured in Egypt, is equal to 22 inches and two‐thirds.

The “diráạ hindázeh,” chiefly used for measuring Indian goods, is about 25 inches.

The “diráạ Istamboolee” (or “cubit of Constantinople”), which is used for measuring European cloth, &c., is about 26 inches and a half.

The “feddán,” the most common measure of land, was, a few years ago, equal to about an English acre and one‐tenth. It is now less than an acre. It is divided into “ḳeeráṭs” (or twenty‐fourth parts); and consists of 333 square “ḳaṣabahs” (or rods) and one‐third. The ḳaṣabah was 24 “ḳabḍahs;” but is now 22. The ḳabḍah is the measure of a man's fist with the thumb erect, or about 6 inches and a quarter.

The “malaḳah,” or Egyptian league, is a measure of which I have not been able to obtain any better definition than this:—That it is the distance between two villages. It is different in Upper and Lower Egypt; as was the ancient schœnus, with which it nearly corresponds. In Lower Egypt it is about an hour's journey, or from 2Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneys to 3 miles: in Upper Egypt, about an hour and a half, or from 3Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneys miles to 4Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneys, or even more.

Corn Measures.

The “ardebb” is equivalent, very nearly, to five English bushels.

The “weybeh” is the sixth of an ardebb.

The “rubạ” is the fourth of a weybeh.


The “ḳamḥah” (or grain of wheat) is the 64th part of a dirhem, or fourth of a ḳeeráṭ; about three‐quarters of an English grain.

The “ḥabbeh” (or grain of barley) is the 48th part of a dirhem, or third of a ḳeeráṭ; equal to Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysof an English grain, or in commerce fully equal to an English grain.

The “ḳeeráṭ” (or carat), which is 4 ḳamḥahs, or 3 ḥabbehs, as above mentioned, is the 24th part of a mitḳál, or from Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysto three English grains.

The “dirhem” (or drachm), the subdivisions of which have been mentioned above, is from Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysto 48 English grains.

The “mitḳál” (or the weight of a “deenár”) is a dirhem and a half;—from Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysto 72 English grains. (p.535)

The “uḳeeyeh,” or “wuḳeeyeh” (the ounce), is 12 dirhems, or the 12th part of a raṭl;—from 571 Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysto 576 English grains.

The “raṭl” (or pound), being 144 dirhems, or 12 uḳeeyehs, is from 1 lb. 2oz. Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysdwt. to about 1 lb. 2oz. 8dwt., Troy; or from 15oz. l0dr. Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysgrains to nearly 15oz. 13dr., Avoirdupois.

The “uḳḳah,” or “wuḳḳah,” is 400 dirhems (or 2 raṭls and seven‐ninths); —from 3 lb. 3oz. Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysdwt. to 3 lb. 4oz., Troy; or from 2 lb. 11oz. 8dr. Appendix B Egyptian Measures, Weights, and Moneysgrains to about, or nearly, 2 lb. 12oz., or 2 lb. and three‐quarters, Avoirdupois.

The “ḳanṭár” (or hundred‐weight, i. e. 100 raṭls) is from 98 lb. minus 200 grains to about 98 lb. and three‐quarters, Avoirdupois.


The pound sterling is now, and is likely to continue for some years, equivalent to 100 Egyptian piasters: it has risen, in two years, from 72 piasters; which was the rate of exchange for several preceding years.

A “faḍḍah” is the smallest Egyptian coin. It is called, in the singular, “nuṣṣ” (a corruption of “nuṣf,” which signifies “half”) or “nuṣṣ faḍḍah:” it is also called “meyyedee,” or “meiyedee” (an abbreviation of “mu‐eiyadee”). These names were originally given to the half‐dirhems which were coined in the reign of the Sulṭán El‐Mu‐eiyad, in the early part of the ninth century of the Flight, or of the fifteenth of our era. The Turks call it “páráh.” The faḍḍah is made of a mixture of silver and copper (its name signifies “silver”); and is the fortieth part of a piaster; consequently equivalent to six twenty‐fifths, or nearly a quarter, of a farthing.

There are pieces of 5, 10, and 20 faḍḍahs, “khamseh faḍḍah,” “’asharah faḍḍah,” and “’eshreen faḍḍah” (so called for “khamset anṣáf faḍḍah,” &c.), or “ḳaṭ’ah bi‐khamseh,” “ḳaṭ’ah bi‐’asharah,” and “ḳaṭ’ah bi‐’eshreen” (i. e. “pieces of five,” &c.): the last is also called “nuṣṣ ḳirsh” (or “half a piaster”). These pieces, which are equivalent respectively to a farthing and one‐fifth, two farthings and two‐fifths, and a penny and one‐fifth, are of the same composition as the single faḍḍahs.

The “ḳirsh,” or Egyptian piaster, has already been shewn to be equivalent to the hundredth part of a pound sterling, or the fifth of a shilling; that is, two pence and two‐fifths. It is of the same composition as the pieces above mentioned, and an inch and one‐eighth in diameter. On one face it bears the Sulṭán's cipher; and on the other, in Arabic, “ḍuriba fee Miṣr” (“coined in Miṣr,” commonly called Maṣr, i. e. Cairo), with the date of Moḥammad ’Alee's accession to the government below (1223 of the Flight, or 1808‐9 of our era), and the year of his (p.536) government in which it was coined above. The inscriptions of the other coins are almost exactly similar.

The “saạdeeyeh,” commonly called “kheyreeyeh bi‐arba’ah” (i. e. “the kheyreeyeh of four”), or the “small kheyreeyeh,” is a small gold coin, of the value of four piasters, or nine pence and three‐fifths.

The “kheyreeyeh” properly so called, or “kheyreeyeh bi‐tis’ah” (i. e. “kheyreeyeh of nine”), is a gold coin of the value of nine piasters, or twenty‐one pence and three‐fifths.

The above are the only Egyptian coins.

The coins of Constantinople are current in Egypt; but scarce.

European and American dollars are also current in Egypt: most of them are equivalent to twenty Egyptian piasters: the Spanish pillared dollar, to twenty‐one. The name of “riyál faránsà” is given to every kind; but the pillared dollar is called “aboo midfa’” (or, “having a cannon”); the pillars being mistaken for cannons. The others have also distinguishing names. The Spanish doubloon (called in Arabic “debloon”), the value of which is sixteen dollars, is likewise current in this country: so too are the Venetian sequin (called “benduḳee,” for “bunduḳee”), and the English sovereign (which is called “ginyeh,” for guinea).

The “riyál” of Egypt is a nominal money, the value of ninety faḍḍahs, or five

pence and two‐fifths. In, or about, the year of the Flight 1185 (A.D. 1771‐2), the Spanish dollar passed for ninety faḍḍahs, by order of ’Alee Bey. The dollar was then simply called “riyál;” and from that period, the above‐mentioned number of faḍḍahs has continued to be called by this name.

The “kees,” or purse, is the sum of five hundred piasters, or five pounds sterling.

The “khazneh,” or treasury, is a thousand purses, or five thousand pounds terling. (p.537)