Desert Truffle

Ancient Names for Desert Truffles

Bedouin with desert truffles, photo by Aramco, used by permissionThe two most common names for desert truffles in the area once called “The Fertile Crest” are ‘kama’ and ‘p/faqa’. There are many variations on these words, which are widely used in the region. ‘Kama’ and ‘p/faqa’ are old words and may have come to Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew from the ancient pan-Semitic language from which all three languages had evolved. Written records began in the 3rd millennium B.C.E., when the Akkadians and the Amorites (both mentioned many times in the Bible), who spoke a Semitic language, left the deserts to the west and colonized Mesopotamia. It is believed that their language evolved and formed three branches. Akkadian represented the Eastern branch, Arabic the Southern branch, and Aramaic and Canaanite, from which Hebrew evolved, represented the Western branch. Aramaic became the most important language of the region and was the primary spoken language of the ancient Middle East in biblical times. It has many dialects, some found in the Bible and in subsequent religious literature. Following clear rules, words are created in Semitic languages, from three (sometimes four) consonant roots. Each root has intrinsic meaning, which in turn affects the meaning of any word constructed from it.

‘Kamah’ and ‘p/faqa’ are ancient roots, and words have been formed from them in Arabic, Hebrew and Aramaic. The intrinsic meaning of the combination of consonants ‘kamah’, the root of kamma, kame, and kmehin (plural of kameha or kmeha in Aramaic and Hebrew) is ‘to aspire’, describing the wish to ascend. The intrinsic meaning of the combination of consonants ‘f/pqa’, the root of faqa, fugapaqua, is ‘to emerge’, ‘to open up’ and even ‘to burst open’.

Desert Truffles are called kama, kamma, kmehin and in their variations, in Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Arabian peninsula. Truffles are called faqa in Saudi Arabia, fagga in Kuwait, faqah in Oman, and paqua in Israel. The word paqua refers to mushrooms in general, and it is even mentioned in the Bible.

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