La Voche, Luxor 06-2021

After lunch at Al Saraya, we had the rest of the day free. I asked our guide (who was from Luxor) where to go for kunefe. He said there was a tea house somewhere that needed a drive to and they made it fresh, but unfortunately nowhere really in town. He then took us to this bakery just down the road as a close option.

It was full of sweet pastries that seem typical for the Middle East and Mediterranean including something that looked like kunefe, but wasn't really. Nonetheless with prices silly low (like 50-100EGP/kg or something), I walked out with so much and so many varieties that we had to give most of it to our hostel staff as we'd never finish it.

Worth a visit for sweets for the road.

Al Saraya, Luxor 06-2021

After arriving from Aswan, we were staying on the quieter west side of Luxor. We parked on an open street next to a wire fence then descended some stairs to what looked like an abandoned place and a bit dilapidated. I probably had a little bit of tunnel vision and didn't notice the outdoor tables and open park-like space next to you. It was honestly too hot at 48C to enjoy the area anyway.

The meal started with soup with pasta, dill, parsley and carrot. Bread was a little old I think, some smooth decent tahini, seasoned pasta and salad came along with the mains of tender beef shin stew with cartilage, a nicely charred okra stew, and a fried fish that was quite good although a little chewy.

It would be a pleasant place to sit outside weather permitting. The inside was quite dated and not atmospheric (we were the only people in there too).

Drinks were charged in Euro and they wanted an exchange rate of 1:21 EGP which is a bit extortionate (1:18 is about right). Oh well, it's small amounts overall.

After lunch we discovered that our accommodation at Villa Sunrise was conveniently just down the road.

Shrimp Afandy, Aswan 06-2021

After the extraordinarily early start to go from Aswan to Abu Simbel, the long hot journey back was exhausting despite the car's relatively weak air conditioning. Finally exiting the car in a random place (not realising we were actually quite close to Aswan) for lunch was a hit of relief, before the hit of 48C heat and humidity brought reality back.

This seafood restaurant had one air conditioned room with a large table, assumably for tourists. The remainder of the seating was outdoor (at least shaded) and the locals didn't seem bothered. The manager took me on a little tour of the kitchen area where lots of men sat around constantly cleaning and cooking fish. The grill chef didn't like me taking photos of that area so I just snuck one in at the end.

The menus is essentially grilled or fried fish. The meals came with soft pita, chunky tahini and some very mild chilli sauce. Finally after a 1h wait from ordering, the fish arrived gloriously with some seasoned rice and salad.

- Fried samos EGP45 - whole deep fried fish, crunchy on the outside but with a perfectly cooked flesh tenderness inside;
- Puri singari EGP70 - a local Egyptian dish of butterflied fish cooked with cumin and other spices with some vegetables. Cooked nicely too although a little bit chewier than the samos.

An excellent meal, although make sure you aren't too hungry or in a rush. Egyptian time.

Kato Dool, Aswan 06-2021

As I had organised my own tour guide and driver, it left me free to pick my own accommodation. Even though the guide recommended a standard tourist hotel in central Aswan, there really wasn't much desire for that or benefit that I could see (since it was closer to Abu Simbel for the 5am start).

Driving from Aswan airport through the Nubian village I could see it really did have a local village vibe and that even other Egyptians may not feel so welcome there. It was a very colourful area but I think obviously hit by the Covid and summer lack of tourism there.

Kato Dool was a very well reputed accommodation online and therefore the prices were much higher than many of the places around it that were much newer. It did have a lovely colourful relaxation area along the Nile (although it was unfortunately packed up because of the heat and low numbers) and the reviews for the food were all glowing (other than you can wait a long long time for it).

I had received the included menu in advance, and having this option was much cheaper than buying a la carte. In order to try and beat the long wait given we were arriving late at night, I tried to pre-order which didn't really work. But since they were so quiet (noone else eating that night at that time) the food didn't take long.

The serves were huge, so much that on the next night we had to tell them to only give us one serve of bread, vegetable choice (molokhia, okra, potato or vegetables), and rice to share.

Nubian meat meal came with tajin kasheed meat, which was beef (I think) in a stew. The Nubian chicken meal which crisp grilled chicken in a savoury tomato sauce. It was outstanding and delicious. The savoury tomato sauce was also what the Nubian okra came in. Molokhia was a weird slimey green vegetable soup actually quite nice and slightly salted. Both of our meals came with vegetable salad, strong garlic tahini, normal and wild rice mixed with cardamom, and a load of soft flat bread to mop up the tahini and the stews. The next night, the grilled chicken by itself (ie. not in the stew sauce) was great too.

Our host was disappointed we didn't get the try their breakfast, as our guide insisted we leave at 5-6am each morning to avoid the heat. Next time. I hope to return.

Abou Tarek, Cairo 06-2021

With a friend's cousin (who didn't speak English) driving us around Cairo and a local guide our driver had sourced from somewhere else, at least it meant we had control of what to have for lunch. We were quite keen for a local meal and asked them what they would have for lunch on a normal day. We ended up at this place Abou Tarek, and seemingly so did a load of people in Cairo.

I can honestly say that there were no other tourists inside than us 2, and maybe when it wasn't Covid times in a sweltering 47C Cairo day it may have been different, but the only question you get asked inside is small or large. The production line of koshari at the front entrance serves them up. I ordered a large, not realising that my two Egyptian colleagues who were both males larger than me ordered small. Oh well.

It was a lovely hearty dish of lentils, rice, pasta, chickpeas, fried onions and topped with a tomato puree, chilli and ginger liquid. EGP126 for 4 serves including drinks was a bargain price for the local delight.

Pane Vino, Cairo 06-2021

Indecision, limited local options and not wanting to take an Uber (which are really really cheap) meant we ended up with finer dining Italian at the InterContinental hotel overlooking the Nile. There had been many recommendations to stay in a tourist 5 star hotel in Cairo but instead I decided to go with the cheaper (more local) option in what I thought was a nice area called Garden City, but really wasn't that nice after all (made more local though than Zamalek which was clearly better otherwise). In any case I suppose people might call it nice simply because they did stay in the 5 star resort part of Garden City rather than the block between these, the Nile, and the many embassies and their armed security outside.

Pane Vino meant walking through the lovely hotel and thinking although there are many restaurants, the ones that don't have the Nile must really suffer comparably.

- bread basket with olive dip (complimentary)
- Insalata mista (lettuce, arugula, mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots in a vinaigrette sauce) EGP135 - after feteer for lunch, the salad was needed to balance out that heaviness and the pasta/carbohydrates to follow;
- Linguine al frutti di mare (pasta with calamari, shrimp, salmon, sea bass, garlic & tomato sauce) EGP245 - thick pasta, cooked thoroughly rather than al dente with a nice sauce and pieces of seafood;
- Misto di mare alla griglia (garlic flavoured sea bass, shrimps, salmon and calamari grilled, served with white rice and vegetables) EGP350 - reasonable dish with ok elements although I don't recall any particularly standing out for good or bad (forgot to take notes at the time).

Overall adequate with a nice view of the sunsetting Nile. Wouldn't particularly go back there or want to have Italian food in Egypt again though.

Quella Gelato Cafe, Cairo 06-2021

Wondering around Zamalek in 47C meant we needed a little respite from the heat. Gelato happened to be conveniently passed in this cute little modern cafe that also meant a more pleasant air conditioned seat too. Although the pure heat did mean that it still felt warm inside there, the gelato made up for it.

Other than my usual pistachio (nutty, good colour, very good), we tried mastic which is apparently resin from a tree and has a bubble gummy type perfume essence to it - as you can see it's difficult to describe. Worth a try for a local flavour.

The waffle cones are made fresh and moulded into a wavy pattern for a little art.

I noticed there's a higher rated Stavolta nearby but this one was perfectly acceptable.

Tayer Ya Fatayer, Cairo 06-2021

I had feteer in Cairo all the way back in 2009 when our guide took us somewhere local, rather than where the tour company had made him. I don't remember it all that well other than that it was described as the Egyptian version of pizza.

Zamalek is supposedly the nicer and more affluent tourist area of Cairo and it certainly did have some more modern Western-style places like Social coffee roaster and several gelato options. Surprisingly there weren't that many food options that interested me - pasta was reasonably rated but I didn't really want that for my first meal (not including the American burgers the late night before) in Egypt.

This corner shop specialises in feteer, which was served as a layered butter pastry filled with melted roumi (Egyptian hard) cheese, jalapenos and peppers. It was thick, heavy, fried and nice in a dirty pizza way but with a slightly crisp top. In 47C heat it was a struggle to try and finish this between 2, but we did our best and got through most of it.

I'm also interested in the food stall next door to this in the alleyway which looked like nothing much but had constant amounts of young men buying and sitting opposite on the street to eat.