Mesir Paste, identified with Manisa Province, is a traditional and specialty food which is said to be a panacea. Not only because it is a panacea, but also thanks to the 500 year-old story about its history and how it has been invented, Mesir Paste is sanctified as an important traditional food.
Hafsa Sultan, the mother of Süleyman the Magnificient who was ruling Manisa Sanjak before ascending the throne, catches a disease of an unknown origin. Merkez Efendi, chief doctor of the Sultan Mosque Madrasa, prepares a paste consisting of 41 different herbs and spices to cure this disease. This curative mixture extant called Mesir Paste recovers Hafsa Sultan's health in a short time. Hafsa Sultan, who is known for her charitable character, orders the distribution of Mesir Paste which recovered her health to the public in the Nawruz week of each year. The paste wrapped in a small piece of paper is distributed from the Sultan Mosque to the public. Since then, every year around the same time, the festival is organized for the public gathering around Sultan Mosque and Mesir Pastes are distributed to people.
Mesir Paste is prepared according to traditional knowledge passed from generation to generation. There are herbs and spices such as anise, nigella, mustard seed, coconut, cardamom, black pepper, clover, cumin, coriander, rhubarb, saffron, gum mastic, cinnamon, vanilla, all spice, ginger, galangal, orange rind, cassia and fennel in the content of Mesir Paste. The chef who prepares the paste checks the freshness of the herbs and spices, determines the amounts of the ingredients and inspects the cooking environment and equipment. During the preparation phase, the chef constantly gives the apprentice cooks who work with him oral and applied knowledge and experience, which is how the traditional information survives.
The festival activities begin each year with prayers said over the stirring and cooking of the mesir paste. At least three tons of mesir paste is prepared for throwing and passing out during the festival. The mesir paste is wrapped in small pieces of shiny, colorful papers by at least 14 women who must be characterized by cleanliness, dexterity, experience and patience. The paste is stirred and cooked with prayers and wishes for quick recovery before being thrown to the people from the minaret and dome of Sultan Mosque. Thousands of people from different parts of Turkey compete with one another to catch a piece of the paste before it hits the ground. The festival program includes not only the mesir paste stirring and distribution ceremonies, but also events like the traditional mesir cortege, a cooking contest, public concerts, entertaining activities for children, theatrical plays and folk dance performances. The Mesir Paste Festival brings together people from almost every part of Turkey, making an important contribution to social peace and cohesion. Preparations are made for both foreign and domestic visitors of the festival in Manisa, and they make a point to give foreign guests and neighboring cities some of the mesir paste as a token of Turkey's tradition of hospitality. In 2012, the Mesir Paste Festival was registered to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on behalf of Turkey.