Food & Cuisine in Cairo
A huge variety of eating options are available in Cairo. Cheap street food is available all over the city in small restaurant and stalls. Downtown Cairo is relatively inexpensive and will suit budget travellers well. There is no clear difference between a café and a restaurant in Cairo, so it may be perfectly fine to have a drink and a shisha in certain places, while others may levy a minimum charge. The more classy restaurants can be found in affluent areas such as Zamalek and Mohandiseen. Most often, upmarket restaurants are located in hotels or Nile boats, but there are a few independent ones too.
Almost every restaurant in Cairo will deliver or have a take out option, except the really exclusive ones.
Our Cairo Restaurant Guide below tells you all about the wonderful food and cuisine to be found in Cairo, as well as the best places to find it. Many of the Cairo restaurants, cafes and bars are situated amongst the best known Cairo shopping spots, perfect for grabbing a quick bite between buying that perfect Cairo souvenir. For more information on Egyptian food and cuisine take a look at our Egypt Restaurant Guide.
Local and Middle Eastern Food
Traditional and authentic Egyptian cuisine is best experienced in private homes, but good restaurant chains like Felfela and Abou Sid in Zamalek, Maadi and Dokki do offer authentic local cuisine.
Street food still remains true to its Egyptian roots; look out for stalls selling traditional dishes like fatayeer (stuffed pancakes) and kushari, a combination of macaroni, lentils and chickpeas , sometimes cooked in tomato sauce. Other bona fide local dishes are fuul, a bean paste, taa'miya or falafel and muzagga, which is Egypt’s answer to Greek moussaka. A tasty snack or even a full meal is Fatir, a pastry which can be eaten sweet with honey and jam or salty like a pizza with cheese, vegetables and meat.
The Kushari Tahrir chain of restaurants in downtown Cairo is a great place to try out a plate of kushari. There are also a number of cheaper places which offer kushari but some only serve vegetables, corned beef and beef hot dogs. Common items like eggs, salads and fried potatoes are easily available. It’s best to avoid empty restaurants as the food may be stale.
Many local restaurants in Cairo tend towards a mixture of different cuisines or stick to Lebanese food which is very popular in Cairo. Affluent Cairenes particularly, consider Lebanese a stylish cuisine. The Dar al-Qamar is a restaurant chain offering quality Lebanese food. Apart from this, there are other good individual Lebanese restaurants as well.
A common street snack from Lebanon and Syria is shawarma which is roasted meat wrapped in bread. Turkish food is also popular and since Cairo gets a lot of visitors from the Gulf, there are several restaurants in Cairo which cater to these tastes.
Western and Asian Cuisine
Western fast food is very popular with young Cairenes who consider it hip to be seen hanging out at the many outlets of McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC or Hardees around the city. These outlets are relatively pricey compared to the local restaurants and cafes.
You’ll find sandwiches and salads in western style bakeries and chain restaurants in Cairo such as Cilantro, Beanos and the Marriott Bakery. There are also smaller bakeries which serve much the same fare. In many of these places wireless Internet is common.
In Zamalek, Mohandesin and Dokki you’ll also find Japanese, Chinese and Italian food, apart from the ambiguously named ‘continental’ cuisine. Vegetarians should head to L’aubergine in Zamalek. Egyptian cooking does include a lot of vegetables but hardcore vegetarians should be aware that often, stock or sauces may have meat in them.
Each neighbourhood has a few streets with shops which sell fresh produce and other goods. Vegetables and fruits are cheap and plentiful. Fresh bread, baked in hundreds of small bakeries or furuns around Cairo are delivered all over the city daily by young boys on bicycles. The bread is of two types, the white flour or aysh shami and the whole wheat variety called aysh baladi. These furuns also sell a variety of freshly baked products, a welcome respite from the typical, beans dominated Egyptian breakfast.
The Metro chain of supermarkets and the Alfa Market are very convenient. For western styled pastries and other baked products, the Bakery Chain is popular.
Avoid drinking tap water at any time. Also, don’t eat unpeeled fruits and raw vegetables at least for the first few days of your stay. Sushi and ice-cream sold outside the big hotels in Cairo are best avoided. Eggs should be eaten fully cooked. Eggs prepared sunny side up, for instance, may harbour harmful organisms.