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Food and Drink
Egyptian cuisine reflects the country's melting pot history and is generally a cross between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare. Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian influences can all be found in traditional Egyptian gastronomy, which is hearty, simple and well flavored, but rarely spicy. Food in the south is more closely linked to North African cuisine with zestier seasonings.
Egyptian cuisine makes heavy use of legumes and vegetables, as Egypt's rich Nile Valley and delta produce large quantities of quality crops. Aysh, or Egyptian bread, and rice are also staples of the local diet. Traditional Egyptian dishes include kofta prepared from ground lamb, rice-stuffed pigeon and vegetables, kushari (a mixture of rice, lentils and macaroni), ful medames or mashed fava beans, and a green soup called mulukhiyya. Fresh fish and seafood are also popular. A few popular desserts are pastries drenched in honey syrup such as baklava, raisin cakes soaked in milk called umm ali, and mehalabeyya, an Egyptian rice pudding topped with pistachios.
Tea, or "shai," is the national drink in Egypt and comes in two varieties: Koshary and Saiidi. Koshary tea is light and is popular in northern Egypt. It is almost always sweetened with cane sugar, and adding milk or fresh mint leaves to your drink is common. Saiidi tea is prepared over a hot flame and is common in the southern half of Egypt. Heavy and bitter, it is usually sweetened with copious amounts of cane sugar. Also popular in Egypt is coffee, or ahwa. Ahwa comes in several versions: ahwa sada is black, ahwa ariha is lightly sweetened with sugar, ahwa mazboot is moderately sweetened, and ahwa ziyada is very sweet.
Although devout Muslims refrain from drinking alcohol, beer, wine and hard liquor are available in bars, restaurants and some grocery shops. Local beers include Stella, a light lager, Marzen, a dark, bock beer, and Aswanli, a dark beer made in Aswan. Zibib, an aniseed flavored alcoholic drink is also a good choice.
Egypt's long history with art is evident in the ruins the ancient Egyptians left behind. The Egyptians were one of the first major civilizations to codify design elements in art. Wall paintings created during the time of the pharaohs followed a strict code of visual rules and often used hieroglyphics to convey meaning. Egyptian paintings, sculptures and pottery are symbolic and figurative. Most of the surviving art comes from monuments and tombs where life after death and the preservation of knowledge were prominent themes.
Modern and contemporary Egyptian art is diverse, with many artists using modern digital media. Some well-known names of contemporary artists include Mahmoud Mokhtar, Abdel Hadi Al Gazzar, Farouk Hosny, Gazbia Sirry and Hussein El Gebaly. Original and unique handmade crafts can usually be found in souks across Egypt.
In general, Egyptians dress conservatively and do not show much skin. This is especially true for women. Skirts and pants should fall at least below the knee for women, and men and women rarely wear sleeveless shirts. While many Egyptian women wear hijabs that cover their hair and shoulders, female tourists are not expected or required to cover their heads. Tourists should note that many Islamic and Coptic Orthodox churches require appropriate dress and may not let you enter otherwise, and both men and women must remove their shoes before entering a mosque. Within the confines of beach resorts, Western beachwear such as bikinis, shorts and miniskirts are accepted.
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