Come hungry, eat often! Egyptian food is the best of everything. It’s fresh, it’s local, it’s comforting, it’s delicious! It’s also plentiful, so get ready for some generous portion sizes. Just think of it as fuel for exploring all the pyramids. Whatever you do, don’t leave Egypt with out trying these particularly Egyptian foods!
Koshari (or Koshary)
This is Egyptian comfort food, and you have to try it at least once while you’re in the country. It’s a hearty dish made with rice, two kinds of pasta, and black lentils, topped with tomato sauce, fried onions, chickpeas, and spicy sauce to taste. It’s both vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, but don’t be fooled—it’s hearty enough for even the meat eaters traveling with you!
It’s easy to find, but the best place to get it for locals and tourists alike is Abu Tarek in downtown Cairo. The restaurant is spread across five floors, and they only serve two things: Koshari, and rice pudding for dessert. You might even see Mr. Abu Tarek himself while you’re enjoying your food!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit Egypt
All the Apps
Could I make a meal of Egyptian appetizers? Yes. Did I? Yes! Multiple times, in fact, including at breakfast. Hummus, baba ganouj, stuffed grape leaves, cheeses, pita and flatbreads, the list goes on, and I loved it all. Try every dip, every spread, every unidentified finger food. You might just find a new favorite, too!
More here: The Ultimate Guide to Tipping in Egypt
Nile River Fish
Okay, they’re not exactly “exotic” fish, but they’re from the Nile. It’ll most likely be perch, but there is also a species of tilapia, catfish, or one or two others. We had it at a super fancy hotel restaurant called Benben, a short boat ride away from the Temple of Philae in Aswan on our trip. It came grilled with a butter cream sauce, with a view of the river, and it was truly a highlight!
Read next: The Best Things to Do in Aswan, Egypt
Americans would never consider eating pigeon, right? We stick with chicken, turkey, and the fancy, occasional duck. But in Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East, pigeon is what’s for dinner! Or in my case, what was for lunch. There’s not much meat on those bones, but it’ll come stuffed with rice or freekeh (a grain), covered in veggies, and cooked in a tagine, so it’ll be well-seasoned and moist.
More here: The Best Things to Do in Cairo
Tagine (or Tajine)
Pigeon isn’t the only thing that you’ll find cooked in a tagine! We also had veal, veggies, and beef tagine while we were traveling around Egypt. Tagine is a popular way of cooking meats and stews, but it’s also the name of the vessel in which it’s cooked. Think of it as a North African slow cooker.
Keep reading: The Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Pyramids
You’ll find kofta in almost every Mediterranean and Middle Eastern country. It’ll be balls of meat, usually beef, lamb, pork, or a mixture of a variety of meats, minced and mixed with spices. We had beef kofta on our dahabiya boat cruise, which was delicious, of course. It came smothered in veggies and served with pita bread. Give it a try on your trip!
All the Veggies
Okay, so vegetables don’t sound exotic or blog-worthy, but trust me when I say these are not your well-traveled grocery store veggies. These are local, organic, and flavorful! Some stand-out favorites are the tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant. It’s my personal opinion that Americans do not eat enough eggplant! If it’s not a regular part of your diet at home, you can certainly give it a try while in Egypt.
Sort of like bread putting, sort of like warm cereal and milk, this dessert came highly recommended by our guide in Cairo. I really liked the texture and the creaminess (and the sweetness, of course), and I even liked how it was torched on the top, which is not always my favorite. This one from The Citadel in Al Ahzar Park also came with pistachios!
More here: Your Ultimate Guide to Solo Travel in Egypt
If you’ve ever had Turkish coffee, you have had a taste of what Egyptian coffee is like. (Pro tip: Don’t try to “drink” the thick layer of grounds at the bottom!) The difference in Egyptian coffee is the addition of cardamom. I was also asked how much sugar I wanted (I went with medium) because it’s also incorporated when they actually make the coffee.
Steve and I both got one at El Fishawy in the Coptic Cairo marketplace. It was much better than my first Turkish coffee experience in Cappadocia more than a decade ago. I might even give it a try again in the future!
Keep sipping: The Traveler’s Ultimate Guide to Coffee Around the World
This is not your Country Time “Lemonade” or Juicy Juice “Fruit Punch.” It’s not even just the straight-up juice squeezed from an actual fruit. It’s basically whole fruit blended up together with sugar, sometimes mint, and a little bit of water to make it more liquidy. It’s thick, it’s delicious, it’s perfect. Lemon with mint and mango juice are particularly popular, but the strawberry juice was a favorite for Steve and me as well. Fun fact: Their guavas are not pink, they’re white! How do I know? Because guava juice was everywhere.
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