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
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.
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
assume that everything that is advertised as 'beef' or 'stew'
comes from a cow. A camel is always a strong possibility.
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.
order white tea or coffee unless you can add your own long-life
or powder - get used to drinking it black.
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).
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
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
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