This is Part 4 in my series on Cairo. For the rest, continue reading via the links below!
Let’s be honest – when one thinks of the great world cuisines, Egypt’s doesn’t generally come to mind. North African cuisine in general has always gotten an undeservedly bad rap for being bland and unimaginative.
But every dish I tasted in Egypt – and I mean every dish – was absolutely delicious. Maybe I just have good luck, but I ended this trip with an affinity for Egyptian food. I’m already dreaming about the fresh hummus, tandoori chicken, and falafel…
Anyway, back on topic.
This is going to be a whirlwind tour of Cairo’s food scene, and it’s by no means comprehensive, but I’d like to think it’s a decent cross-section of the best of Egyptian cuisine for all budgets.
When you visit Cairo, there’s no better place to try delicious Egyptian food than at Sequoia, located in the tony Zamalek district of town, which is situated on a small island in the middle of the Nile river. I’d recommend getting there by taxi or Uber, as getting into this neighborhood of embassies and restaurants can be painful when using public transportation.
The food at Sequoia is delicious (I’ll get to that), but the location and ambience is just as nice. The open-air restaurant is situated on the end of Zamalek island, and when I visited in the wintertime, there were cozy outdoor heaters running as well. That, combined with the aroma of shisha wafting through the premises, made for a nice atmosphere.
But onto the food… Every dish I had at Sequoia was delicious, but I’d recommend at a minimum, ordering the following. See the picture at the top of this post for a snapshot of what I had:
- Grilled Halloumi Cheese (appetizer)
- Hummus Three Ways (appetizer)
- Homemade Falafel (entree)
- Lamb, Chicken, and Beef Kebab Platter (entree)
- Fresh Flatbread (goes nicely with the hummus)
- Turkish Coffee (desert)
The price of this huge meal at one of Cairo’s nicest restaurants, which could easily serve two people? Just a shade over $40 USD. This isn’t a particularly cheap restaurant, by any means, but as far as fine dining goes, it’s a bargain. If you can swing it, I definitely recommend checking Sequoia out.
In terms of more standard fare, I found myself stopping by Felfela a number of times. They have quite a few takeaway outlets scattered across the capital, all of which serve down-to-earth, homely Egyptian fare like lamb kebab, naan, and kushari (a kind of rice and macaroni hybrid). I found myself gravitating towards the kebabs more often than not – when paired with some fresh hummus, I couldn’t get enough of them!
One of Egypt’s true delicacies is the stuffed pigeon – saved only for the most special occasions. And well, how often do I visit Cairo these days? Just being here was a good enough excuse to try out this amazing dish, and I’m so glad that I did. If you want to try stuffed pigeon, I’d recommend having it at Khan El-Khalili, which is located in New Giza City, on the outskirts of Cairo. The stuffed pigeon I tried here was incredibly succulent, and the other accompanying dishes (stuffed dates, deviled eggs, and lamb kebabs) were outstanding as well.
And for the brunch-lovers out there, if you’re in the Cairo area you can’t leave without spending a lazy morning at 139 Terrace, located on the premises of Mena House. A full buffet-style brunch is just $30 USD, and the location is unbeatable – the outdoor eating area is situated alongside a beautiful garden looking out over the Great Pyramids.
Do yourself a favor, and take a few hours to graze on the excellent Egyptian breakfast here, enjoy the fresh coffee, and admire the beautiful view. The service here is friendly as can be, so I’d highly recommend it.
From a culinary perspective, these were certainly the highlights of my visit to Cairo, but I was only there for a few days so this guide is by no means comprehensive! There were also a number of unnamed street stalls I grabbed snacks from throughout the day, and the food from there was nearly just as good as anything I had in a restaurant. As always, explore at your own risk – Egypt’s food hygiene is questionable at best in my opinion – but that’s all part of the adventure!
Feel free to add in any worthwhile eating spots in the comments while you’re here – I could always use some recommendations for my next trip to Egypt, as I’m sure it’ll be happening soon enough!