Sycamore Fig: an Egyptian tree and fruit (Mulberry fig, Egyptian sycamore, cumbez, جميز)

One of the less common fruits in Egypt is the sycamore fig, known locally as gemeiz جميز. In English, it is known as Sycamore, Sycomore, Fig Mulberry. In Turkish, it is known as cumbez.

Botanical Information

The Sycamore fig tree should not be confused with other trees called sycamore in northern Europe, which are actually maples.

The sycamore fig tree (Ficus sycomorus sycomorus, and F. sycomorus gnaphalocarpa) belong to the fig family, which includes the common edible fig (Ficus carica), and the Banyan tree.

The tree is evergreen, grows to 20 meters high and 15-20 meters horizontally, and has large leaves that provide shade. Its natural habitat is alone rivers and streams in thickets.

Like all the fig trees, if bruised, a white latex exudes from the cut.

The fruits grow in clusters, and can be found for several months of the year in some places, April to June in some places and summer to December in others.

The tree does not bear seeds, and is hence human dependant in Egypt.


Sycamore is one of the few trees growing in Egypt since ancient times. Along with other trees in Egypt, its wood was used in various things.

Some wooden artifacts in Egyptian museums today are known to be made of sycamore trees. One such object is a statue of the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis in Alexandria's Greco-Roman museum.

The sycamore is mentioned in the Bible several times, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament (Amos 7:14, Jeremiah 24:2, Luke 19:4).


The Egyptian goddess Hathor was known as the Lady of the Sycamore. Many artifacts are known from the New Kingdom period, such as this .

A tree in El Matareya near Cairo called the Virgin Mary Tree is said to be a resting spot of Mary, Jesus and Joseph and is a pilgrimage spot for Christians. The tree died in the 17th century and a new sapling in 1672 was planted. That died in 1906, and a new one was planted, which is what is present today. The tree is enclosed in a compound and the government charges admission fees to it. Both Coptic Christians and Muslims visit the site for healing by the Virgin (a practice that is unorthodox in Islam).


The wood from sycamore tree provides a source of timber in Egypt, a scarce commodity., causing Pharoahs to look north to the cedars of Lebanon for timber for their fleets.

Like all figs, it requires a certain species of wasp, Ceratosolen arabicus, to pollinate it.

The young fruit are nicked with a knife to encourage their ripening. The orangish fruit is not too sweet and has a distinctive, yet not strong taste.

In other places and cultures

In Turkish, the name of the tree and the fruit is cumbez, similar to the Egyptian gemeiz. In Famagusta, Cyprus, there is large tree besides a mosque called Lala Mustafa Camii. It is said to be the oldest tree in Cyprus, planted in the 13th century, making it more than 700 years old. It inspires art like this photograph by Hasan Bilgehan.




Nature: The Queen of Trees. Fig Trees

PBS aired today an amazing program called Nature: The Queen of Trees. Fig Trees, which describes the ecosystem surrounding a Sycamore tree in Kenya.

The tree relies on specific fig wasps to pollinate them. The wasps can only grow and live inside the fig fruit.

Parasitic nematode worms grow inside the worms. Other parasitic wasps drill through the fruit with their ovipositor to deposit eggs. More parasites exploit the hole to lay their own eggs.

Hornbills make nests in the tree, and protect it against sap sucking cycadas. Bees also use the trees to hives. Several other birds feed on the fruit, and feed their young, including green pigeons.

Seed bugs feed on the seeds of the sycamore fig fruit, preventing any new trees from growing below the parent tree.

Mammals from elephants to giraffes feed on the fruit and leaves of the tree.

Ants protect the figs from other parasites, while they herd aphid like flightless insects called Hilda that feed on the sap, and give honeydew to their protector ants.

Bats feed on the fruit, and so does baboons, and the fish in the stream below, all spreading the seeds to other places.

Masai honey hunters and other human use of the tree represent a danger, as the trees are cut for their wood.

All in all a magnificent documentary around a whole ecosystem around one kind of tree.
Khalid Baheyeldin

أحتاج لصور لزهرة شجرة الشمبر أو خيار الشمبر

الأستاذ الفاضل بهي الدين
تحية طيبة وبعد
هناك شجرة زهرتها غريبة الشكل إذ تبدو كما لو كانت هناك بتلة ناقصة من بتلاتها كما إن البتلة المقابلة للمكان الخالي هي الوحيدة الملونة من البتلات واسمها الشمبر أو خيار الشمبر شيء من هذا القبيل
أرجو المزيد من المعلومات عنها واسمها العلمي والاسم الرسمي لها باللغة العربية وشكراً

The or a human reflection

I have noted that the name Figaro is used as a name for a French newspaper and for characters in opera etc. It's use is synonymous with communication and or the interdependence of the human race, the need to communicate.

I find myself fascinated by humans 'parable nature' which allows them, jointly or separately, to not actually take responsibility for the present and that this situation is reflected in the (human) history or interpretation of the fig tree (amongst other things such as the constellation for example).

I note that the name Figaro is assumed to come from Italian, Spanish and Greek meanings meaning fig ? I also note, although I am an agnostic, that The Bible has many fig tree stories, these stories prompted me to look, via the internet, at ancient Egypt and delivered me, ultimately to your web site.

The Fig tree family is a very ancient tree, for the human race, that provides not only a barometer for the seasons but also, scarce commodities, wood, shade and food, the fruit/food is additionally produced over a prolonged season two crops in some instances (defendant on position).

It is also interesting to note that our race has made some of these trees human dependent, (as indeed are many of our fruit trees). To have woven such stories via the chinese whispers that I believe the collective conscious can become when fact is not relied upon around another natural phenomena such as this fine tree is to me fascinating.

R Butler

hallo i'm fauzy from

hallo i'm fauzy from indonesia... i very interested to sycamore fig but i don't how to get seedling or cutting to plant in my place... is there any body know how to get the cutting tree or seed? please contact me at


fig sycamore cutting

Hello from Indonesia.

Desperately need Egypt fig sycamore cutting if any available.

Want to plant it in Indonesia.

Any help or info on how or where to get it is deeply appreciated.

One Krisnata