Is it safe to eat and drink in Egypt?

Yes, indeed it is! But there are some 'common sense' rules - (see right).

Hints:

  • When eating in a traditional manner from a common bowl or platter, NEVER use your left hand!

 

  • Don't ask for tomato sauce (you might get tomato soup!) - ask for ketchup.

 

  • Fried chips are called 'fries' or 'pomme frittes' in Egypt, not 'chips' (which could turn out to be crisps).

 

Back to Our Tour Menu

 

 
 

Eating & Drinking in Egypt

The good news is that by following a few common-sense guidelines, you should be able to avoid serious gastric problems while you are in Egypt. Differences in water and food will always mean that you may have some tummy upsets but serious bacterial infections may be mostly avoided with a little care, although Giardia can be more difficult to prevent. Sometimes you need to remember that no matter how many precautions you take 'the curse of the Pharaohs' can strike at random!

Most evenings on the Tour we invite you to join us at a local restaurant. Menus vary from local specialities to Italian and Asian styles, and some Egyptian-style 'fast foods'. You are free to decide whether you would like to come along or not, and our tour system is based on a 'pay as you go' system, so you decide what you would like to eat.

Eating in a local Nubian home, Aswan

City or town water in Egypt usually has so much chlorine in it that no self-respecting bacteria would live in it! While you should always drink bottled water (it is available at street stalls and corner shops everywhere - and cheaply!) Mike and Patricia have found that they can clean their teeth and shower with impunity in Egyptian TOWN water (although Patricia often cleans with bottled water in Aswan). The big problem is Nile water. As none of you will probably be showering or cleaning your teeth on Elephantine Island you may wonder what the problem will be? Tea or Kakade (hibiscus tea). Every home that we visit on the Island will offer a drink of tea. While we will ask for tea to be made from bottled water, always check before you drink: Patricia started carrying a bottle of cold Kakade with her whenever she went visiting!

SOME DO'S AND DON'T'S

DON'T drink Nile water - it is one of the fastest, surest ways to get sick.

DON'T buy any meat from an Egyptian butcher - while we can't think of any reason that you would do so, we thought it best to warn you.

DON'T assume that everything that is advertised as 'beef' or 'stew' comes from a cow. A camel is always a strong possibility.

DON'T eat from street stalls. Unlike fruit cocktails, which are prepared in front of you, food in stalls can be prepared in very unhygienic circumstances, can be improperly cooked, or even reheated.

DON'T order white tea or coffee unless you can add your own long-life or powder - get used to drinking it black.

DON'T drink the local alcohol. It is dreadful and some of it can even do you considerable harm or, in extreme cases, cause death. The exception to this is local beer: this is quite safe and beer drinkers tell me (Patricia) that it tastes great! If you love to have a drink (and who doesn't!) then remember that you can take in some duty free. In addition to the litre of alcohol allowed duty-free on entry, Egyptian law has a curious loophole which allows the purchase of further bottles - in certain places - at duty-free prices if bought within 24 hours of arrival. These may be freely consumed within Egypt. We suggest that you may wish to 'top-up' your duty-free allowance at Aswan airport when we arrive. Even if you do not drink, please be aware that your Nubian crew on our Felucca Days, while Moslem, will welcome the invitation for a drink. Alcohol is also available at 5 star hotels (although at exorbitant prices).

DO try a fruit or sugar cane juice from a stall in the local souk. While there is a small risk associated with this, it is far outweighed by the superb taste and texture of these delights.

DO ask questions about dishes in restaurants: you may not always get an intelligible answer but that may be enough of a guide in itself. In many of the restaurants that we will visit, such as GAD, you will be able to receive really detailed answers about the food served.

DO check the seals on the water bottles that you buy: while 99% of them will be fine, there are some vendors who will refill old bottles with tap water.

DO try to buy your water from the same vendor while you are in a town. It is a great way to meet locals and get some local gossip. It also gives you a greater chance of a come-back if you notice a doctored bottle.

DO prepare yourself for a limited diet while you are in Egypt. In most cases the food is tasty and satisfying, but restaurants do tend to offer the same fare. Some of the better ones will run specials but you cannot count on this.

DO judge the restaurant by its appearance. If you are on your own and you walk into a restaurant and it appears dirty, dingy, or the atmosphere is threatening, turn around and leave. Egypt is not like Chinatown, where you can find treasures in the most run-down of restaurants.

DO pick grilled chicken if you have a good appetite: grilled pigeon is for those with the appetite of a bird. (!)

DO enjoy the fruit, it is an absolute delight in Egypt but make sure that it has its skin on when you purchase it and that you peel it yourself.

DO wash your fruit and vegetables as human faeces are sometimes used as fertiliser in Egypt. Always wash your hands after handling fruit and vegetables (not to mention Egyptian money!).

DO take particular care with dairy products. Only drink long-life milk. Processed cheese is best and you can eat yoghurt if it comes in a sealed container and has been well-refrigerated. Always check seals on the packaging of dairy products.

DO take some good quality instant coffee with you if you are a coffee drinker. There are two types of coffee in Egypt: American coffee, which is a poor quality instant coffee; and Turkish coffee, which is a gluggy, strong, often bitter coffee.

Yes! Western take-aways are available in Egypt.

DO take artificial sweetener with you if you use it. It is not available in Egypt as most Egyptians are addicted to sugar and have many teaspoons in their tea or coffee.

DO take vitamin tablets with you. We recommend that you consult your GP or your health consultant but your system can always do with a boost when visiting a foreign country. Beroccas are great pick-me-ups (although we are told that GASTROLYTE sachets or tablets are better: we carry both). A good multi-vitamin is recommended. Vitamin B or C can be worth considering, as can GARLIX (Blackmore's) which boosts the immune system and keeps sinus and catarrh under control.

DO use a common sense balance between obsessive behaviours around food and drink and enjoying your experience in Egypt. If in doubt always feel free to ask us! We will tell you, in good faith, whether or not we would eat or drink something, although, as always, you make the final decision.

 

GO TO TOP OF PAGE