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Egypt

The cuisine of the ancients.
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Looking at paintings and carvings from ancient Egypt, you will likely encounter depictions of vast feasts. Today, food continues to be a central part of Egyptian culture. Although Egyptian cuisine often overlaps with other Middle Eastern, African and European diets, it still boasts many distinctive characteristics.

The country's cuisine revolves mainly around rice and bread. The staple bread is called aish, which means "life." This bread resembles Greek pita bread and can be stuffed with various ingredients to make sandwiches. In addition to grains, vegetables and legumes are also popular—a testament to the abundance of rich crops produced along the Nile River. The Egyptian diet does not feature a lot of meat, offering many options for vegetarians and vegans. Instead, beans and lentils are the primary source of protein, used in stews, soups and salads.

Traditional Egyptian dishes can be as simple as kushari (a mixture of rice, lentils and macaroni) or as exotic as hamaam (grilled pigeons stuffed with seasoned rice). Baba ghanoush, a typical Arabic dish, consists of roasted eggplant mashed and mixed with seasonings such as garlic, lemon juice, cumin, tahini and olive oil; in Egypt, it is usually served as a side dish or salad. Falafel, a food often associated with Middle Eastern cuisines, is made from mashed fava beans as opposed to the chickpea filling used in other cultures.

Desserts are traditionally sweetened with honey or molasses, such as baboosa, a pastry soaked in honey and sprinkled with hazelnuts. Umm ali is considered the national dessert—a cake made of raisins and nuts, soaked in milk and served hot.—Alexandra Menglide


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