From Cairo, John and I traveled south to Aswan, one of the driest inhabited places in the world. It rains so rarely in Aswan, a lot of people don’t bother to build roofs on their homes. We took the day train from Cairo to Aswan, something the local tourism association tries to prevent tourists from doing by refusing to sell foreigners tickets at the train station counters. We read online that if you just hop on the train without a ticket you can buy one on board. You have to pay a small premium but it still works out to be much cheaper than the more expensive night train that’s just for tourists. Being frugal backpackers, we couldn’t resist the challenge of the day train.
I’m very thankful that we were able to visit Egypt during a more peaceful time, while locals were in ramadan and fasting for the sunlight hours. We ate a lot of homemade Egyptian food, but also ventured out into the streets of Cairo to find some vegan baked goods, ful sandwiches, kushari and Indian food. There aren’t a lot of places for vegans to eat in Cario; you really have to know where to look. We were fortunate that our hosts, Joey and Manar, were able to introduce us to places like Sugar and Spice, where we bought this box of vegan baked goods. At this little bakery and cafe in Zamalek (an island that is known to some as the Manhattan of Cairo), we picked up a mini chocolate bundt cake, rice crispy square and two mini carrot cake loafs.
Are you ready for Egypt!? We certainly weren’t. Going from Italy to Egypt was one hell of a culture shock. After just a few hours in the sky, we landed in a country where everything was totally different, especially the food and people.
We flew with Egypt Air from Rome to Cairo. We ordered special vegan meals (VGML) when we made our online booking and called two days before to make sure they had received our request. When the meals were passed around, the staff knew to give us the veggie option. Our meals came with the little VGML cards but I’m not very confident that everything on the tray was actually vegan. There was no problem with the fruit salad, corn salad, rye bread or box of dates. The potential intruder was the ravioli, which had a mystery stuffing that none of the staff could identify. It could have been potato, tofu or cheese. And who knows what the pasta was made of. I’m dorky enough that I tried emailing Egypt Air customer service. The email address bounced back, saying the address was invalid. Ironically, their email for customer questions is firstname.lastname@example.org. I also tried contacting them through Twitter. My question was ignored. Oh well, I guess we’ll never know.
Let’s not dwell on that though. Today I want to share some pictures of the homemade meals we enjoyed while in Cairo.