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May 22, 2009 11:50 AM

Cairo - recs on food, food souvenirs and restaurants

Hi. I'll be in Cairo later this August and am looking for all sorts of recommendations. What should I be eating? Which restaurants can't be missed? What should I bring back to the States with me - spices, non-perishables I can only find in Egypt, etc. - and where do I find it.

Thanks in advance for the help. I'm game for anything, just want it to be really good.


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  1. I have just posted some info on Cairo in another place on this board. Check that out. I am not sure that there is ANYTHING in Cairo that you need to bring back and that you can't find here. I will have to think long and hard about that!

    1. In terms of bringing food back from Egypt - I'd have to go with teas. As a Westerner traveler I found that trying to shop for spices was more trouble than it was worth. However, I am a large fan of hibiscus tea, and loose or in bags, and I'm a big fan of the products sold there and it's relatively easy to travel with.

      6 Replies
      1. re: cresyd

        Yum, the hibiscus drink I had in Cairo several times last year was supremely delicious. Appeared to have been made from the hibiscus "hips". Is this the same as the "tea" cresyd?
        If the hips are available to bring home, I would highly recommend this. Wish I had thought to bring some back with me. Some Mexican restaurants here in California make a similar drink, but it's often too sweet for me . . . I am not knowledgeable about where to get the stuff here to make it . . . any suggestions?

        1. re: vday

          I apologize for my phonetic spelling of the Arabic, but when I was in Cairo - the hibiscus tea (served hot or cold) was referred to as 'karkidae'. The cold version was pretty sweet, but it was still tea.

          I have absolutely no clue where to get it in the states, but in the Middle East it is sold loose. Also, and this is in no way exactly the same at all - tea's like Starbucks Passion tea use hibiscus flowers. So I'd assume it'd be possible to get it back in the States. It'd just be more about the preparation to get it to taste like it does in Egypt. That being said, I have straight hibiscus tea bags that I got the last time I was in Egypt - and those are amazing and totally different than any hibiscus tea I've gotten Stateside.

          1. re: cresyd

            I am going to check with Mexican restaurants where I buy the drinks. The Mexican drink I get is in one of those coolers that circulates the liquid. It's very similar to what I had in Cairo . . . but usually made a little sweeter here than what I had. I water it down, but then loose some of the tartness too. Now I'm really curious where they get the ingredients to make it . . . I suspect a good Mexican market would carry the "tea" or "hips" . . . whatever is being used for the brew. Maybe I will do a post on the San Francisco Bay area for Mexican Markets that carry this.

            1. re: cresyd

              OK, just decided to Google hibiscus tea. . . the drink is made from the sepals of the hibiscus flower. It's made throughout the Middle East and also Latin America as well as other parts of the world. Full of antioxidants, vitamin C and has possible medicinal qualities. Should be easy enough to hunt down in a good Latin American market . . .

              1. re: vday

                If you Google and ignore Wiki, there are a huge number of vendors selling hibiscus tea (including that range from bulk organic to tea bags.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Yes, but wiki was instrumental in helping to understand that the tea and the drink in I had in Cairo (and Mexican restaurants as an agua fresca) were one and the same . . . and I learned about the details of which part of the flower the drink is made from as well as the history and ubiquitousness of this drink throughout the world. It was quite interesting.
                  Regarding ordering from the internet, I usually look for a local vendor first as I like to support our own businesses in town.

        2. You should also be aware that Ramadan begins on August 22nd, so local haunts might be extremely limited during the daylight hours!