Before our trip to Egypt, I was only looking forward to two things- first, to see the Great Pyramids of Giza since it is arguably the most staple destination of Egypt and second, I was really looking forward to experience the street scene of Cairo by going on a street food trip. Although a lot of travel advisors say that it’s not very safe to eat just anywhere in Egypt, I was still however confident to go on a food trip just because I got a first-aid medicine at hand just in case my stomach goes bad. Luckily, I did not get diarrhea during my whole trip because I avoided the Egyptian tap water as much as possible.
I know Egypt is a historic and exotic place and I expect the same with their food; that’s why I was very excited to get the opportunity to finally travel there and see the ancient sites firsthand and not just see it in some postcard or in a children’s encyclopedia.
Sure enough, when we got to Cairo, the first thing we went to see are the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza, situated just a few kilometers away from the City of Cairo. There was not really much to see except that you’ll finally view the thing in the flesh. To gain entry to the tombs require extra money and extra patience and we don’t really have that much time and budget to explore everything (such a waste), so what we did was like every other normal tourist should do- take pictures with the iconic sites in the background at different angles and hope that it would not look exactly the same as the postcards.
Our next stop was the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Now this was more interesting because we got to see a lot of ancient artifacts, plus you get to know more about their history too! Back to Cairo, I was excited to finally check out the street scene even though the city’s traffic was really bad. We stayed awhile at our accommodation because it was really hot outside.
Of course, Egypt is generally hot and dry, but I wasn’t pretty much prepared for it . We finally went out to check some street food when the sun was almost down. So there it was, Egypt’s famous street foods- I only went to food carts that seemed popular with the locals and tourists (it was an indication for me that they sell “safe” food).
I’ve noticed Egyptians are very fond of breads, you can see a lot of bread carts/stalls along the streets of Cairo. Their bread is delicious and very satisfying but it tastes so much better and is actually more fulfilling when you pair it with other Egyptian food like Ful Medames (some kind of Mashed Bean Paste), Kebabs and other veggie mix prepared the Egyptian way (yes, Egyptians are also fond of veggies).
Taking note of Egypt’s arid climate, I suddenly thought of desserts and sweets that are kind refreshing in such a weather. I observed most of the food carts but most of them either sell bread, rice mixes (Kushari), smoked meat and other veggie mixes. I also want to try Egyptian sweets (if there are any) as much as possible so I asked some of the locals about it. Somehow, it led me to a nice, cozy food shop (some kind of tea shop) which do serve some Egyptian desserts.
Egyptians also has a huge selection of local pastries and puddings because their main crops since the Ancient times were wheat and barley. However, their desserts are mostly prepared with fruits or fruit juices and even honey which I think is nice because at least you can tell that they are kind of healthy. But the most amazing part is that Egyptians are still very traditional when it comes to their cooking because as what I have learned from the locals, they still prepare their food the same way it was prepared way back the olden times. Now, I could really say that Egypt does not just have a delicious food selection, but they also have the most natural, healthy and uncommercialized food production in the world.
Egyptian desserts are typically prepared, served and eaten during the Ramadan season. This is based on tradition since Muslims usually eat fruits to break their fast. With Egypt’s Arab and Mediterranean mix of cultures, they have come up with refreshing delights such as:
Eating ice cream is a lovely way of beating the heat. Bouzat Haleeb or commonly called as the Egyptian or Arab ice cream, although an ancient treat, is a taste bud delight to every tourist. It is unlike the milky, heavy, over-processed Western ice creams we are accustomed to. Bouzat Haleeb has a light but creamy taste and a gummy, stretchy flavor because of the Mistika (Arabic gum), and a slightly floral taste from rosewater or the orchid tuber extract. The best part is, this kind of Ice Cream can be topped with any fruit you like to add more flavor!
This exotic tasting dessert is said to be Egypt’s National Sweet Dish and I made sure I get to taste this one because, why pass up the chance anyway? Umm Ali is some kind of Egyptian bread pudding that is lighter and fluffier than the usual puddings we have. For me, it kind of looked like a sort of fruit cake. Though it is made with traditional sweet milk, dried fruits and nuts are added to give an extra tangy taste to the dish- making it a real Arab-Mediterranean treat!
Qamar El Din
Now this one is a real refresher since it is a kind of juice drink.Qamar El Din is a popular juice drink usually consumed to break the Ramadan fast. This juice drink is basically made out of sun-dried apricot paste that are soaked and dissolved until the thickness/texture reaches a consistency. It’s not only sweet and refreshing, but it is said to be full of Vitamin A and antioxidants- good for people who are watching their diet!
It was a pity that I didn’t had all the time to try on every dessert available but just trying on a few was more than enough to satisfy my cravings for an Egyptian sweet treat.
On the next day, we are headed to a beach resort along the coasts of the Red Sea to experience the tropical side of life. I was not very excited about this part before we traveled but when we got there, it was one of the best and most fun experience we had while in Egypt. We went snorkeling, parasailing and windsurfing! The beach was beautiful, no question about it. But for those who also want to experience it, make sure you bring along a lot of sun block!
If you are planning to go to Egypt or still considering it, I recommend to not stick with the usual tours. I mean, yes, Egypt may be most known for its ancient monuments and every itinerary will really include a visit to at least a couple of them, but such excursions can get boring in the long run. It’s much better to talk with the locals, taste their local cuisine and know more about the local culture from the locals themselves- that way, you get more insights and it adds more color to your trip. Most of all, go on outdoor adventures like we did at the Red Sea or if you are the extreme type, you can go out on a desert trek and visit some oases. Just be really ready with the place’s extreme heat!
Mary Josebelle Alusin works alongside Egypt Tours as a content writer. She has that love and passion to travel around interesting places. She loves going to the beach with friends, joining mountain adventures, and visiting historical places like museums and historical sites.