Egyptian cuisine combines many of the best traditions of African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking, and is both delicious and healthy. Vegetables, meats and aromatic herbs and spices are combined to create colourful and flavoursome dishes.
Typically, a meal starts with soup made from pulses or beans, onions, tomatoes and leafy green vegetables. A large helping of garlic or spices give them a kick. A dish of meats slow-roasted with herbs, or fish stew accompanied by couscous or rice may follow. Meals are almost always served with salad, dips and flatbread.
Desserts, particularly pastries made using figs, nuts, and dates and smothered in honey are common, as is yogurt.
Aish merahrah: Pitta-like flatbreads made with fenugreek seeds and maize flour.
Slow-roast meats: Chicken, lamb, veal and rabbit are all popular meats for slow-roasting with herbs. Served with rice or couscous.
Ful medames: Fava beans topped with hard-boiled eggs and sliced vegetables.
Babaganoush: Pureed aubergine dip.
Samak Makli: Fried fish considered a speciality of Alexandria.
Ful: Fava beans with lemon and herbs.
Molokheyya: Wild okra soup flavoured with a garlic and coriander.
Mahshi/Dolma: Vine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, tomato and sometimes beef mince.
Temayya: Spicy deep-fried mashed bean or chickpea patties. Egypt’s take on falafel.
Shawarma: Pieces of meat, often lamb, skewered, barbequed and served in a flatbread.
Koshari: Rice or pasta mixed with lentils, tomato and fried onion.
Mahallabiyaa: Rice pudding traditionally served cold and flavoured with rose water and sprinkled with spices such as nutmeg.
Kahwa: Thick, strong Turkish-style coffee.
Shay bil na’na’: Tea served with a large sprig of fresh mint and plenty of sugar.
Karkaday: Bright red drink made from hibiscus flowers.
Aswanli: Dark beer made in Aswan, southern Egypt.
Zibib: Alcoholic aniseed-flavoured drink.
Things to know:
If you are invited to dine with a family in their home and you are served meat such as poultry, lamb or veal, then consider this an honour. Egyptians regard a meat dish as a luxury. Pigeon is a delicacy and cooked on special occasions. It will be prepared and cooked with great care, but probably served complete with its head.
10-12% is added to hotel and restaurant bills but an extra tip of 5% is normal.