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Egyptian Innovation And Food

Egypt is a marvel of historic architectural and cultural development, stemming from ancient times. Fans of Middle Eastern food should have Egypt to thank, seeing as a lot of the aforementioned cuisine was developed and perfected in this dynamic African country.

Varying Wealth And Power

A country with an ancient history of varying riches, Egypt’s cuisine has reflected varying income and status levels for thousands of years. With most of the population unable to afford meat regularly, and copious dietary guidelines within the prominent religious groups in the country, Egypt’s presents a colorful cuisine that is mostly vegetarian.

Utilization of Resources

Egypt’s cuisine is best known for it’s flavorful spices and use of oils. Boasting a range of savory palates including spicy, nutty, earthy, and herbal, Egypt places vegetables, beans, grains, and lentils at the forefront of a lot of their dishes. Cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cloves, chili peppers, parsley, bay leaves, dill, and saffron are among the most popular and heavily used of spices in this country. Due to high prices and exclusivity, meat dishes are typically only enjoyed on special occasions or holidays. Fish and seafood is prevalent in the coastal regions. Despite a high population of Islamic and Muslim citizens following a strict ban of alcohol, a heavy production of wheat and barley ensures that beer is constantly flowing and available.

When Egyptians do enjoy meat, it is typically pan or rack roasted and given a healthy coating of crushed herbs which are often ground down by a mortar and pestle. Often, meat is cooked on skewers and served over vegetables and rice. Street and full-scale markets are staples in Egyptian day to day life, and many of the dishes found here are eaten without utensils. Food is a prevalent centerpiece to many Egyptian ceremonies and occasions, including Ramadan. This celebratory month of fasting for practicing Muslims is capped by Eid al-Adha, a great 3-day feast in which a sheep or lamb is cooked on a spit over an open fire, and the meat is enjoyed by even the more impoverished population.

The influences of Egyptian innovation can be felt even in the west. While there is debate as to where the spread came from, it is heavily rumored that Hummus (a popular dip made of mashed chickpeas, garlic, tahini and lemon juice) originated in Egypt during the 13th century. Less Americanized is Koshari, a popular dish which contains an unusual mix of lentils, macaroni noodles, a rice accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce made of garbanzo beans, fried onions, and a spice blend known as Baharat. A staple dish to many Egyptians, Koshari rose to fame back in the 19th century, when households had to concoct a dish with whatever ingredients they could find in their pantry.

At the Mercy of the Nile

Before the construction of the Aswan dam in 1970, the Nile river would flood each July, cultivating a rich black soil in the surrounding plains. Around 95% of Egypt’s total population lives along the world’s longest river, and for good reason– the Nile river valley is the most fertile area in the region.

Egypt is in a very fortunate position, in terms of food and trade. Laying as the bridge between Africa and the Middle East, many traditions and ingredients crossed over from surrounding countries during the Ottoman Empire. Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs may have also heavily influenced Egyptian cuisine, as well as the country’s religions and overarching culture. With the Nile river providing a reliable water source, ancient Egyptians were able to benefit from a more nutritious diet than other ancient civilizations. This rings true even today– Egypt has the lowest reported level of child malnourishment in the region, despite a lack of widespread rain and farmable land.

Countries in Region Nile valley & delta, the Eastern Desert, the Western Desert, and the Sinai Peninsula
Population 102.3 million
Regional Flavor Profiles Spicy, Herbal, Savory, Nutty, Earthy
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