1. Change your mindset
When I first arrived in Cairo, every Egyptian that I met told me that it’s impossible to survive in Egypt as a Vegetarian or Vegan. Coming from Hong Kong where pork broth and pork pieces can be found in almost all dishes, I didn’t think that it gets any harder in following a plant-based diet. And it didn’t. Surprisingly, most locals don’t realize that a lot of traditional Egyptian food is vegetarian and most of it is even vegan. So don’t feel at a loss if you are either thinking about becoming vegan or if you are already Vegan and are planing to move to Cairo.
2. Love local and organic produce
I know this from my home country Germany and I have experienced it even worse in Hong Kong (I lived there the previous 1.5 years), vegetables often don’t taste like vegetables. They can be quite watery and tasteless as they either come from artificial greenhouses or are imported from far away. The advantage about Egypt is, here you have the prefect climate to grow all sorts of vegetables and fruits and an increasing number of farms und producer are organic. This guarantees you access to sweet and sun-kissed tomatoes, ripe and tasteful avocados and ‘exotic’ fruits like Guava that you usually won’t find in a European supermarket.
5. Browse through small supermarkets and convenience stores
My first few days and weeks in Cairo were painful – painful in the sense that I thought there was no almond milk to be found anywhere in Cairo because Carrefour didn’t stock it. I assumed that Carrefour as the chain with the biggest supermarkets is the benchmark for food selection in Egypt. You can’t imagine how happy I was when I found various brands and flavours of almond milk in small markets and convenience stores in my neighbourhood. I would have never ever expected to find any vegan produce in a small Egyptian supermarket but as these are more flexible to react to demand from customers, you’ll be surprised what to find on their shelves.
4. Have lots of Mezze dishes
If you have never tried Mezze before, put it on your food bucket list now. Mezze dishes are not only super delicious but they are an explosion of vegan tastes. The culinary concept of Mezze is very similar to Spanish tapas, it is a selection of small dishes and perfect to share with others. Egyptians usually have it as an appetizer but just order one or two more and it works great as a main, too. My favorite vegan Mezze dishes include stuffed vine leaves, falafel, tahini sauce, baba ghanough (eggplant dip), taboulah (parsley salad), humous, and some freshly baked baladi (bread).
5. Shop groceries online
After I browsed through and searched all supermarkets near me, I discovered Egypt’s online world for food. There are quite a few online-only shops that specialize on local, organic, international and all kinds of healthy food. Some have a proper website, some sell their goods on facebook, almost all do deliveries for a very small fee which is very convenient. For a good overview of healthy food resources, online and offline, check out Healthy Living Cairo. I absolutely love this website and it saved my life in the beginning.
6. Visit Vegan Kitchen
Vegan Kitchen is the first vegan restaurant in Cairo and I am very lucky and happy that it’s just a 10 min walk from my home. It serves amazing organic, gluten-free and animal-free food and offers much more than the standard tofu dishes or vegan imitations of “real food”. What you find at Vegan Kitchen is creative, always freshly prepared and diverse in taste.
7. Share the love
Good vegan food it probably the best argument Vegans have against scepticism. If you don’t know how to cook vegan food, learn it. It is worth the effort in the long run because the more people enjoy and demand vegan food, the better the chances that supermarkets and restaurants start selling more of it.
8. Learn more about food DIY
There is one thing I haven’t found yet in Cairo and that is non-diary yoghurt. So instead of falling into despair I did an extensive research online on how to prepare soya or almond milk yoghurt myself. My yoghurt-situation went from problem to opportunity and I am glad I can’t get everything pre-made in Cairo. I now have to get back to the roots and cook a lot of my favorite foods from scratch. This doesn’t only make me a proud DIY cook but it also gives me a much better control of what gets into my food.
9. Connect with like-minded
There are other Vegans and Vegetarians living in Cairo and they give advice and tips on various facebook groups. If you have any question or are curious what others might be looking for or have a suggestion on how to improve life for Vegans in Egypt, here are a list of my favorite facebook groups (tbc):
Real Foods & Nourishing Traditions Egypt
Vegetarian/Vegan Society in Egypt
10. Bring your favorites from home
When the going gets rough and you either don’t want to or can’t make the one thing that stops your vegan craving, there are always home visits. Or for that matter, friends and family who come to visit. Prepare a grocery list in advance and pay attention to what’s allowed to bring to Egypt. Easy-peasy.