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Alcohol in Egypt

Posted by Egypt on March 9, 2016

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An Egyptian drinking alcohol?

Absurd! We’re good old-fashioned men and women who abstain from the Devil’s juice. We’d sooner cut off an arm than imbibing a rich, full-bodied, aromatic lager... Paired with lamb perhaps.

Okay, you got us.

If you’ve read our Faux Pas to Avoid in Egypt post, you would know the population is largely Sunni Muslim. Even in more secular, liberal cities, an unspoken adherence to traditional values is on everyone’s mind. Technically, Islam forbids alcohol.

By the time the previous government, led by President Morsi came to power in 2013 many rumors were heard in media that he might push to incrementally ban alcohol outright. Just like Northern Ireland can somehow accommodate both Catholicism and excessive Guinness consumption, Egyptians find ways to drink.

In this post, we’re going to highlight Egyptian distilleries and drinking establishments.

Not a drop

Cairo is regarded as Egypt’s most progressive metropolis, and as such alcohol is easier to come by. Internationally owned hotels and resorts generally serve beer and hard liquor. Booze, and by extension tourism, is too profitable an industry to shut down. To wit, Egypt’s largest brewer Al Ahram Beverages Company was nationally owned until 1997. There are several brands offered by ABC including Meister Max, Sakara, and Stella.

To wit, Egypt’s largest brewer Al Ahram Beverages Company was nationally owned until 1997. There are several brands offered by ABC including Meister Max, Sakara, and Stella.

Stella, by the way, is not Artois, and has been brewed in Egypt since 1897, thank you very much.

Aside from ABC’s line, it’s best to avoid unfamiliar brands – especially cheap ones. Serving alcohol in Egypt can be a costly and somewhat risky enterprise. Low-price brands look appealing but may contain highly toxic methanol.

Fortunately, Drinkies: The Beverage Shop is owned by ABC and found in all major cities.

So where else can I get a drink?

Unsurprisingly, in Egypt’s conservative climate, drinking establishments are not popular outside resorts. Here are a few unsung heroes. Blink and you might miss them.

The Greek Club in Talaat Harb, Cairo: Non-greeks must pay an entrance fee. Ironically, this establishment serves mostly Egyptian locals. Note that it closes down during Ramadan.

Gemeica Bar in Talaat Harb, Cairo: Gemeica Bar is a quaint hole-in-the-wall bar. The waiters are prompt and food refreshing. Drink an iced Stella accompanied with shisha.

Cap d’Or in Alexandria: Don’t let its rundown appearance deceive you. Cap d’Or was started by Greek immigrants in the 1950’s and as such is very welcoming to foreigners. For Liberal Egyptians it is a refuge from religious expectations imposed on society. Buy Cap d’Or’s long-time patrons a pint and they might share a story with you. Be sure to grab a seat before 11 PM!

What about Ramadan?

Theoretically, selling liquor is forbidden during Ramadan. This restriction is not widely enforced inside high tourist areas. Non-residents are exempt from it anyway.

Bring on the wines

Stella is all well and good but why not support local? wine-making is an Egyptian heritage over 400 years old. Kouroum of the Nile is an award-winning local wine producer inspired by French and Italian vintages. Winemakers must be dedicated to their craft as vineyards have an uphill battle against Egypt’s hostile environment. The surprising benefit is that fungi fail to grow unless deliberately tended to.

The surprising benefit is that fungi fail to grow unless deliberately tended to.

Kouroum irrigates during early morning. Evaporated water simulates an appropriate environment for their vineyards. Grapes are likewise picked early in the season to preserve natural flavors, acidity, and colors. Then, grapes are fermented at low temperatures.

Grab a glass at tourist resort Sharm el-Sheikh’s SOHO square. Speaking of, Sharm el-Sheikh on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is the defacto destination for youthful revelry. No shortage of liquor on this resort.

Pharaoh’s poison

Today alcohol is regarded as a taboo in Egypt but this wasn’t always the case. An inscription dating to 2200 BCE says it best, “The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer.” Alcohol in Egypt was enjoyed by all social classes with beer being part of a standard wage.

Little is known about ancient Egyptian brewing methods aside from it being prepared from barley. Beer stored in black jugs represented extreme potency.

That’s it, booze connoisseurs! If you think Egypt is a step too far for a frosty pint, then think again. Travel2Egypt offers 5-star hotel accommodations in major cities including Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh. Or you might prefer to wrap up your Alexandria Day Tour with a visit to Cap d’Or bar. Know a fellow alcohol connoisseur that prides himself or herself on their encyclopedic knowledge? Or maybe it’s an acquaintance that loves a pint in exotic places.

Do them a favor and share this blog post. Then, book a hotel in Egypt. Now if you’ll excuse us we’re off to wet our whistle. 

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