Wednesday 27 February 2019

Eating Vegan Food in Egypt

vegan egyptian food

Being vegan in Egypt can ostensibly seem like a struggle - particularly if you, like me, unfortunately can't speak Arabic. It's not just the usual avoidance of cheese, egg, honey, milk, yogurt, cream, fish and meat (including, in this case, camel meat) that you have to deal with, because being vegan isn't just about what you eat - it's about what you do too.  With every other person offering you a camel ride, now is the time to educate baby vegans: we don't exploit animals in any way - be that for their flesh (meat), fluids (milk) or by using them as transportation (riding). If snapping a photo of you in front of the pyramids on-top of a camel has been a life long dream, perhaps it's time for a new dream. But more on that at the end of this blog post. Most of this blog post is about eating vegan food in Egypt -  what to look for, where to find it. Hopefully it will help you on your vegan adventure in Egypt. Yalla habibi! 

Vegan Egypt

Vegan Egyptian Food for Breakfast

Finding a vegan breakfast in Egypt is easy. I stayed at an okay 3-star hotel and their buffet breakfast had an abundance of accidentally vegan options:

egypt vegan

Mashed potato, fava beans, aubergine, falafel, of course, flatbreads and more. The aubergine and falafel, in particular, were delicious! If you want to stay where I stayed, I'd recommend them for their vegan breakfast alone, but they have an added bonus of an amazing view of the pyramids. I went on one of their tours of the pyramids, which I felt was a bit of a rip off (it was like £50, but you can just pay the entry fee of like £5 and walk yourself around, I don't think the stuff that he said was worth £45 lol). The hotel was also very crazy saying "you can't walk around outside this hotel by yourself" but I did and it was fine I'd definitely stay there again though because despite the lies they were really nice, the breakfast is excellent and they really do have an incredible view:

vegan hotel egypt

Prices are from £40, you can book here. I also spent some time in a super cheap Airbnb on the coast of Egypt and had a great time buying breakfast at a tiny corner shop:

vegan egypt

More flatbreads and fava beans, coffee, oranges and some unnamed accidentally vegan traditional Egyptian sweets. The shop owner was really kind and participated in my ridiculous miming dance where I was asking if there was any honey in them (I pointed at the honey and then at the sweets, he shook his head and pointed at a bag of sugar). I want to learn Arabic. Miming aside, finding vegan Egyptian food for breakfast is a walk in the park.

Vegan Egyptian Food for Lunch

Depending on what your sightseeing plans are, you may well find yourself having street food for lunch and a sit-down meal for dinner, at least that's what I did most days. Some white people are scared of street food in Egypt, but there's no need to be. I ate a lot of it and didn't get ill (I did get ill from drinking sea water though lol don't do that)

vegan egyptian food

Pictured are my favourite street food finds. On the left are some falafel sandwiches, on the right is a spinach pie. Both the sandwiches and the pie cost just 15 EGP (66p) Actually the sandwiches were originally 10 EGP, and when the guy saw my look of disbelief he upped it to 15 EGP. Still the cheapest falafel I've ever had. And by far some of the tastiest. The pie guy offered to put cheese in my pie for free and then tried to feed me bits of chicken. Next to the camel guy who offered that I could hold his camel whip these two had the worst vegan pickup lines in Egypt. 
Vegan pickup lines aside, if you aren't afraid of street food, you'll cope well as a vegan in Egypt.

Vegan Egyptian Food for Dinner

Although there are a handful of vegan Egyptian restaurants in Cairo, I didn't end up going to any of them - mainly because I stayed outside of Cairo near the pyramids. If you want to know more about the vegan restaurants in Cairo check out a billion and Happy Cow. What I did do is try and find vegan Egyptian food at traditional Egyptian restaurants and touristy restaurants alike. The saving grace was the trio: tahini, baba ganoush and yes more falafel. These three are offered as sides at most restaurants:

vegan egypt

This restaurant was a traditional Egyptian restaurant in Cairo that offered tahini and baba ganoush as sides, they didn't have falafel so I had to cope with only eating falafel for two meals that day.

vegan in egypt

This restaurant was very touristy (it was actually Berlin-themed, lmao) in Hurghada, it was the only place that offered Egyptian sides though, aka falafel and tahini. This place didn't have baba ganoush, but they did have tomato soup which they wanted to put cream on the top of. Just when I started to think about getting bored with my three true loves (tahini, baba ganoush and falafel) I visited a couple of restaurants that didn't have these as options. Instead, I had vegetables without butter and crackers:

vegan in egypt

And chips:

vegan egypt

None of these things was anything to write home about, but they filled me up and the guys gave me lots of green tea and were really friendly. One thing that you're almost guaranteed to find on any Egyptian restaurant menu that also happens to be accidentally vegan is arrabiatta. Arrabiatta was one of my favourite finds when I was travelling Italy as a vegan, in Egypt, it was as well - this time not because of the epic taste but because of my need for carbs and vegan food.

egypt vegan

The (numerous) arrabiattas I had in Egypt weren't my favourite arrabiatta I've ever had. They weren't not spicy and the tomatoes weren't fresh. But vegan beggars can't be vegan choosers and it's nice to know arrabiatta will be there for you in a vegan emergency.

More Accidentally Vegan Egyptian Food

  • Koshary: a traditional Egyptian food that is also accidentally vegan. Unfortunately, I didn't see it anywhere but that doesn't really mean anything, normally I'm too busy taking photos of dumb stuff to notice things.
  • Ful: fava beans crushed together, so good.
  • Fresh fruit: apart from one unfortunate moment when a guy tried to sell me some off pineapple (hot tip: if you're trying to get rid off bad fruit, don't give it to the vegans, they knowww lol), the fruit I found in Egypt was delicious

Vegan Things to Do in Egypt

Once your bellies are filled, what things should you do/not do in Egypt?

Camel riding: is it vegan?

Is camel riding vegan? Short answer: no. Veganism is defined as not exploiting animals, and camel riding is exploitation, particularly in Egypt where you can see them using whips regularly.

camel riding vegan

Along the same lines is horse riding in Egypt. Around the pyramids, you'll find many people offering horse riding or the opportunity for you to sit in a horse-drawn cart. From what I could see these horses are treated even worse than the camels - whipped, starved, tied up etc please, please, please don't support this industry.

Scuba Diving (yes, that's vegan dw)

I went scuba diving in Hurghada as I heard it was ideal for divers and as I was writing this post I thought 'oh shit, is scuba diving vegan?'

egypt vegan

To me scuba diving is like walking in a forest - if you just observe animals in their natural habitat then it's vegan. Make sure you go for a company that doesn't anchor their boats directly onto the coral. Take photos (of course), and obviously I had my underwater camera with me, what I really needed though was a stylish scuba watch because I had no idea how long I'd been down there or how much time was left. Two avid scuba divers I met on the boat told me that in the last ten years the coral around the entire world has taken a dramatic change for the worst. Thanks, climate change. Most scuba diving trips come with a free lunch, I was surprised by the number of vegan-friendly options available (I ate so many chips). But pack some snacks just in case.

See the mummies(?)

One thing I found really weird was the fact that you can see the mummies in the Egyptian museum, like why aren't their wishes respected and why aren't they left in their tombs? (I mean, they have mummies in London too, that's much much worse.) I don't think that's very nice. But whatever, we have enough on our plate (har har) with the exploitation of live animals for the moment.

See the pyramids (duh)

Not specifically vegan or not-vegan, just wanted to end this post with a photo of myself (:

vegan in egypt

egypt vegan

vegan egypt

Wrap Up: Vegan Egyptian Food Guide

So there you have it, thanks to an abundance of delicious falafel, tahini and eggplant it's actually pretty easy to be vegan in Egypt. Camel whipping aside, this was a really fascinating country to visit and I met some very kind people. When are you going to Egypt? For more of my vegan guides, see:

We also made a video semi-related to my adventures in Egypt (but not really), here it is anyway (it's one of our quirkier ones):

P.S.: If you're interested in an app designed for vegans & wanna support the vegan movement and us, veganvstravel as well, use this link plz to download Abillionveg. When registering, please use our referral code: TRAVELLINGWEASELS. If you wanna know why we think this is a great app, read here.

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