I love trying new food everywhere we go. When we lived in Delhi I did a great food tour and had the most delicious butter chicken ever. I still salivate when I think about it. When we moved to Cairo, I asked a friend I knew from Delhi (who now lives in Argentina and used to live in Cairo) if she had any off the beaten track sightseeing suggestions. She recommended Bellies En-Route, a food tour company one of her friends started. I’ve been waiting all year for the right time to do it, and my in-laws visiting was the perfect time!
Bellies En-Route has been operational for about 1.5 years. Right now they offer a Downtown Cairo walking tour that combines a lot of food with a little bit of history. Our guide was none other than my friend’s friend. I love how small the world really is! Laila was enthusiastic and excited to show us some favorite food stops.
We met Downtown at Tahrir Square and headed off on foot. Our group was the 3 of us, plus a Filipino tourist who lives in Dubai and does his own food tours there. Groups are a maximum of 6 except if you arrange a private tour for your own large group. But many of the stops can’t hold many people, so 6 is really the max I’d suggest!
Downtown is an area I hadn’t really explored much of except using it as a cut through to get to other areas. Tahrir Square was originally called Ismailia Square after Khedive Ismail. After 1919 it become locally known as Tahrir (or Liberation/Freedom) Square but wasn’t officially renamed that until 1952. Now it is a very popular spot for protests and revolutions.
We worked our way through 8 stops–5 food and 3 beverages. I was so stuffed and hurting by the end of it! Others in our group paced themselves better and were not in quite as much pain as I was. It was just all so good!
We started at Macarona Reda for a pasta dish and then headed to Felfela for a variety of dishes, including various forms of fava beans. Egyptians LOVE their fava beans and eat them whole for breakfast, turned into tameya (Egyptian falafel made with fava beans rather than chickpeas), as a sauce, etc. Felfela was a really cool building that is literally built in an alley between two existing buildings. It keeps going back and back and back! The decor is unique and it can hold a crowd. It’s popular with tourists and locals alike.
Next we got tried some prickly pear from a street vendor. It was yummy!! Prickly pear comes in 2 colors, but it doesn’t really affect the taste at all. Our next stop was a juice bar where we got a variety of juices and all shared. Hibiscus was my favorite. We thought it was funny that their tables and chairs were on the street! We were nestled between parked cars as cars whipped by.
Other stops included a bakery, a local coffee joint, some koshari, and desserts. I adore koshari, but was so full by this time I could barely eat any. Koshari is a very popular Egyptian dish that combines lentils, macaroni, chickpeas, rice, onions, garlic, and a red sauce with vinegar. My kids adore it as well.
We ended the evening on the rooftop of a hotel for drinks and lovely views. Overall, the tour lasted 5.5 hours (4-9:30 pm) and was awesome. Highly recommend it for anyone who likes to try local food!
What is it? Downtown Cairo walking food tour
Location? Starts in Tahrir Square and you walk throughout Downtown
Cost? $70 per person (as of Dec 2019)
Camera Fee? No, though be respectful of the locals. Small DSLRs are fine, but not massive lenses
Toilets? A few stops have bathrooms
Food/Drinks Allowed? Sold? It’s all about food! All you can eat and plenty of water, plus a juice and coffee stop
Stroller Friendly? No, not a little kid friendly tour
Parking? You can find parking near Tahrir Square, but as you end in a different location, taxi is the way to go.
Notes: September to April tours are offered Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 4 pm. May-August tours are offered any day. Prebooking is required. Groups are 6 people or smaller and you may be in a tour with others. You can also arrange for a private tour. This is required if you have more than 6 people. You’ll go to 7+ stops over about 4-5.5 hours. Ours included 5 food stops and 3 beverage stops. You’ll get a great range of food to try, plenty of bottled water, and some history.