Egypt's cuisine has been inspired by many of the best dishes coming from the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and African countries. Their meals are usually a combination of meat, vegetables, and aromatic herbs and spices. After learning so much about Egypt through primary school research projects, I was lucky enough that when I visited Dubai last year I was able to sample some Egyptian cuisine and reconnect with a dish I remember being brought in as part of Cultural Day. This was a delicious experience in itself.
Usually, a modern Egyptian meal starts off with soup made with beans, tomatoes, onions, and green vegetables. Garlic is often used in making soup to give the appetiser a strong kick. Then, a slow-roasted meat covered with herbs, or fish accompanied by couscous, is served. Instead of bread, like what many European countries serve their guests while waiting for the dishes to arrive, Egyptian restaurants serve salads with dips as pre-appetisers.
As for desserts, Egyptians usually serve pastries made with honey, yogurt, dates, and figs.
Below are some of Egypt's most popular dishes that I hope you have the opportunity to try:
Ful Medames - This is a dish made with Fava beans topped with hard-boiled eggs, and sliced vegetables
Samak Makli - A fish dish that is a specialty of Alexandria.
Molokheyya - Okra soup flavoured with coriander and garlic.
Dawood Basha - Dawood Basha is a meal that is made from kofta balls (ground meat seasoned with onions and parsley). The kofta balls are cooked in tomato sauce and then served with rice and pine nuts.
Koshari - You should look out for this delicious dish sold by street vendors all over Egypt. It is a tasty street food made with lentils, fried onions, rice, pasta, and tomato sauce. Vinegar and garlic are used as condiments to elevate the meal.
Egypt is a nation of tea drinkers. Karkadeh is a traditional Egyptian drink made by boiling dried hibiscus flowers. Karkadeh is also high in vitamin C.
Aseer asab is another popular drink in Egypt. Like Koshari, it is sold by many of the street food vendors that litter the streets of Egypt. This is a popular drink that sells really well especially during the warmer months of the year.
Things to know
If you are invited to dine with a family and they serve you poultry, lamb, or veal, then consider it an honour. Since ancient times, Egyptians have regarded meat dishes as a luxury. Additionally, pigeon is seen as a delicacy and cooked with great care for honoured guests.
Many Egyptians talk about their Pharaohs in high regard. They are proud of their culture as well as their humble beginnings. Cleopatra, for one, is highly regarded as a woman who possessed great wisdom and beauty, and many modern Egyptians still see her as a role model today. Cleopatra's legend is so well known and revered that she still features in Hollywood movies and video games.
One of the most popular games of all time centring on Cleopatra is the "Pharaoh + Cleopatra" game, which is a simulation title where players build and defend a city. Another successful game is a casual title simply called "Cleopatra" that depicts the Egyptian Pharaoh's beauty and elegance which can be played on your computer or mobile. However you must always talk about the pharaohs and Cleopatra carefully in Egypt as these icons are still highly revered.
Unlike Australia, tipping is expected in restaurants. About a 5% - 10% tip to servers is expected from guests and with a nice tip, if you return to the restaurant, the likelihood is they will look after you even more upon your return.
Egypt is a country rich in national treasure and history. Don't be shy to join tours inside pyramids as well as other historical sites in order to enjoy the country to the fullest. It’s a country of wonder, and is an education in itself.