Ok, so I have to admit I LOVE FOOD. No travel for me is without the experience of food – I seek it out. I have found myself travelling all over a city or town nibbling the various delicacies and cultural dishes on offer. The last time I was in Japan I made a point of trying everything I came across, including the weird and wonderful. My last trip to Cairo last week was no different.
With a culture that includes the use of many fresh spices and herbs I figure I should start this off with a visit to the spice markets at the famous markets, Khan El Khalili (pronounce the Kh from the back of your throat).
The spice markets sold everything from star anise to red saffron, and other strange looking spices I couldn’t lay a name to or find a translation for.
And nowhere can you look without seeing the Egyptian staple, the date. Growing all over the city, men climb the palm trees the cut the stems loaded with these morsels of sticky sweetness.
Like all good foodies, I delved head first into the sweets and desserts. I couldn’t resist the temptation and was rarely disappointed. With that I tried the fatira (can be savoury as well), an Egyptian pie or pancake pastry layered and placed in the oven, then smothered in sweet honey. The sensation of eating this is almost indescribable but I will try! Upon picking up the morsel of fine layered pastry dripping with honey the ultimate flavour was one of pastry wrapped around honey and a sensation of custard. Oh, heaven.
Then of course there are the various other honeyed sweets (similar to baklava) and the biscuits. But nuts are the crowning glory of most Egyptian sweets.
To temper all this sweetness, another familiar pastime of Egyptians is tea drinking. Usually this coincides with sheesha smoking or at least with a half cup of sugar to keep the tea company.
The most famous tea and sheesha house in Cairo is the old but interesting Fishawi Cafe in Khan El Khalili. Sitting in the cafe you can see its past glory gilded on the walls and mirrors.
Living in a landlocked country (Ethiopia) I was craving seafood. What better place to search it out then the Mediterranean coast. A quick day trip to Alexandria saw a lunch of crab, squid and prawns accompanied by traditional Egyptian side dishes of hummus and cheese salad (a salad is a dip!!) overlooking the Mediterranean. This rounded out my trip to Cairo and undoubtedly helped to give meaning to my ‘Cairo cleavage’! You will have to do alot of exercise to compete with the food here, but who can resist?
PS This is my last post for Cairo (at least until I visit again!) as I have some other great travel plans underway! i.e. an ancient walled city, the apple isle and the land down under…