The legacy of ancient civilisation has had a profound influence on Egypt’s culinary landscape. Though sharing similarities with Eastern Mediterranean cuisine – think rice-stuffed vegetables, kebabs, kofta and shawarma – the country has cultivated its own distinct diet, and one heavily reliant on the fertile, ancient banks of the iconic River Nile.
Egyptian people are proud of their culinary heritage, and rightly so, it is a colourful diet centred around legumes and vegetables, generously seasoned with a vast larder of fresh herbs and spices, chiefly cumin, cardamom, coriander, aniseed, cinnamon, mint and clove. If not grown locally in fertile soils, these herbs and spices are readily available from India, Europe and the Far East – such is the enduring efficiency of Egypt’s ancient trade routes, founded over 4,000 years ago.
While meat is becoming steadily more popular in Egypt, its expense throughout history has cultivated an expansive menu of home-grown vegetarian dishes. The most common meats used in cooking are chicken, duck, rabbit and pigeon, as well as liver and offal from sheep and cattle. As for seafood, fish is common along the Mediterranean seaboard and the immediate banks of the Nile, but further inland, local food is sourced almost exclusively from the soil.
Accompanying virtually every Egyptian meal is bread, or aish baladi, a glutinous form of pita bread that’s the lifeblood of the country’s rural, working-class communities. Such is the importance and centrality of bread in Egyptian life it is subsidised by the government, and its name alone is derived from the ancient Egyptian Arabic for ‘to live and be alive’.
For those visiting Egypt during a luxury escorted tour with Scenic, gastronomy promises to play a major role in your experience of this proud nation. From sampling ancient, regional delicacies such as kushari and areesh to tasting the finest Eastern Mediterranean-inspired cuisines prevalent in the country’s illustrious cities; your journey will showcase Egypt’s culinary heritage in all its colour and flavour.
To inspire your culinary odyssey through Egypt, here we introduce 15 Egyptian dishes you must try on a visit to the country.