Egyptian cuisine has evolved over thousands of years, with many of the civilizations that have passed through the region leaving some kind of mark on the food eaten within Egypt.
Greek, Lebanese, Palestinian Syrian, Turkish, British and French culinary influces can all be found in modern Egyptian food across a wide range of dishes, and there are also many similarities with Eastern Mediterranean cusine.
There are also noticeable differences between the typical food consumed in the north and the south of the country, with the northern coastal areas particularly full of seafood and fish-based dishes, while the southern regions tend to be more influenced by spicy North African cuisine.
With so much variety, it can often be a huge task deciding what to eat in Egypt. This complete guide will help you learn about the kinds of food travelers can expect to encounter, the safest food to eat in Egypt, and what not to eat.
What Is Egypt’s Most Famous Food?
The basic staples of typical Egyptian food include:
- Beans, used in a wide variety of dishes
- Gibna beida, a cheese similar to feta
- Pita bread, known in Egypt as eish baladi
- A variety of fruit and vegetables
- Meats such as lamb, beef, chicken, and pigeon.
Some of the most famous traditional Egyptian food dishes include:
- Kushari – Egypt’s national dish, consisting of a mix of lentil, rice, and pasta, usually topped with a spicy tomato sauce and seasoned generous amounts of garlic
- Ful medames – a stew made from mashed fava beans and other vegetables, often served for breakfast
- Molokhia – a thick stew made with jute leaves
- Fattah – a dish made of a layer of pieces of bread fried in garlic vinegar and covered with rice cooked in veal or lamb broth, topped with a spicy tomato sauce. Traditionally eaten during the Eid al-Fitr religious feast following Ramadan in Egypt.
One of the most interesting Egyptian food facts is that a large number of traditional dishes are vegetarian, including the stuffed-vegetable dishes kofta and mahshi. This is largely because of the dietary restrictions of the Coptic Christian community, which dictate an essentially vegan diet during much of the year.
Can You Get Alcohol in Egypt?
While Egypt is a country with an Islamic majority and practicing Muslims do not tend to drink alcoholic beverages, it is still possible to get and drink alcohol in much of Egypt.
The sale and consumption of alcohol is prohibited in most public spaces and shops in Egypt, but tourists are still able to drink in hotels and other accommodation facilities approved by the Egyptian Minister of Tourism.
Beer is the most popular and commonly found alcoholic beverage in Egypt. While it is possible to find imported alcohol in Egypt, it is more often much cheaper to drink local Egyptian products.
What Should I Avoid Eating in Egypt?
While it is perfectly safe for foreign visitors to sample most Egyptian food and drink, there are still some precautions that travellers may want to follow:
- Observe which restaurants and eateries are most popular with the locals – this will usually guarantee a high quality standard and good hygiene practices in the kitchen, as well as reasonable prices
- Make sure any tap water has been labelled safe to drink before doing so – while tap water in hotels may be safe, travelers are generally advised to stick to drinking bottled water
- Avoid eating fresh produce unless you can verify it has been properly washed and cleaned beforehand
- Avoid refreshments that may have been mixed with tap water (including in ice).
Travers are also advised to be up-to-date with the required vaccines for Egypt before embarking on their trip.
What is safe to eat on a Nile river cruise?
Travelers who are planning to visit Cairo and go on a Nile river cruise while in Egypt should be aware that high numbers of cases of diarrhea are often reported by those who undertake these trips.
However, this is not always caused by poor food hygiene practices or by drinking tap water on board: in most cases it is perfectly safe to eat the food served during a cruise.
Instead, a number of factors are thought to be responsible, including the type of boat used for the cruise and the extreme contrast between the exterior humidity of the region and the cool air-conditioned interiors of the boats.
The eating habits of the traveler themselves may also be a factor: as many cruises offer ‘all you can eat’-style buffet meals, over-indulgence is often seen to be the primary cause.
What Does It Cost to Eat in Egypt?
Egypt is a fairly cheap country to travel to, and, in general, Egyptian food prices are very reasonable. For example, travelers can expect to pay roughly:
- EGP 2.50 for a snack such as a falafel wrap at a local kiosk
- EGP 30.00 for a draught beer in a bar
- EGP 60.00 for a meal for one at a cheap restaurant
- EGP 80.00 for a meal deal at a fast food outlet like McDonalds or KFC
- EGP 300.00 for a 3-course meal for 2 at a mid-range restaurant.
Therefore, travelers who are willing to live mostly off local snacks from street food stalls do not need to prepare a large budget to travel to Egypt, while those looking for a more luxurious opportunity to eat out will have to pay a little bit more, but nothing too excessive.