Egypt: Food and Drink
A Land of an Ancient Civilization
The nation's history includes occupations by the French, British and Turks, and its cuisine was influenced by all of them, as well as by regional neighbours such as Lebanon and Greece (though Egyptians tend to use more cumin and coriander). Local meat is usually grilled beef, poultry or mutton. The coarse foul bean and spicy vegetables are often served on the side. Pita bread (also known as Arab or Syrian bread) is common, but differs in taste from that in nearby countries. Shwarma, a sandwich similar to a gyro, is good fast food, but make sure the meat hasn't been sitting out for too long. Also try fateer, an oven-baked pancake with either sweet or savory combinations; mulokhaya, a soup with chard and lots of garlic; and koshari, a blend of rice, lentils, pasta and chickpeas, accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce and fried onions.
Egyptian wines have improved dramatically since the privatization of the state vineyards in 1998. Local beers have been available for 100 years, and they too have improved in both quality and variety in recent years. Stella is the brand to look for.
Alcohol is forbidden to strict Muslims, but most restaurants serve at least wine and beer. Some Muslim owners, however, have forbidden alcohol in their properties, so don't be surprised if a restaurant is alcohol-free. Breakfast is usually a selection of flatbread and eggs, often with a side dish of fuul (simmered fava beans).
Lunch is usually the main meal of the day, in which meat is served. Families often sit down together immediately after work (which ends a lot earlier in the day than in the West but may be supplemented by a return to the office or shop in the evening) around 3 or 4pm for plates of kosherie (a mix of macaroni, lentils, rice, fried onions, chickpeas, and spicy tomato sauce), molakheya (sauce of Jew's mallow) and chicken or rabbit, and fateer (a flat pastry that can be served either savory or sweet).
Dutch beer produces Heineken and there is several drinkable beers and a choice of presentable locally made wines. The most popular of these include Stella; Saqqara, a light lager, indistinguishable from Stella by most drinkers; and Meister and Meister Max, an attempt to make a darker beer (Meister Max sacrifices taste for alcohol content). Beers cost from LE6 ($1.09/55p) at a store up to LE30 ($5.45/£2.80) in a five-star hotel. Grand Marquis, Cape Bay, and Sheherezad are the best of the local wines and cost about LE65 to LE80 ($12-$15/£6-£7.40) retail and LE100 to LE200 ($18-$36/£9.25-£19) in a restaurant or hotel.