Ah, Cairo. An ever-changing and truly electric city that has taken on so many different forms for me over the years.
When I was younger, it was the louder, busier and bustling counterpart to Alexandria (my preferred city) on our annual summer trip to Egypt to visit the extended family. During university, I became fascinated with the city, having been one of the millions of spectators following the 2011 revolution from abroad. Nowadays, it’s the closest thing I have to home, despite the fact that I’ve never lived in Cairo (or anywhere else in Egypt, for that matter).
To jump straight into the Vegan Cairo guide, click here.
In the summer of 2017, my mother packed up what was left of our life in Bahrain after 30-odd years and moved back to Cairo. My first visit to Egypt after that was truly bizarre. It was the same fourth-floor apartment in the heart of a quiet neighbourhood in Nasr City that I’d always known, but now filled with all our old furniture from Bahrain (including, might I add, my old bedroom). I felt like I’d just walked off of a time machine instead of an airplane.
With time of course, my disorientation has eased. I know where to find the plates I like in the kitchen, which shower has the best water pressure and I’ve rediscovered my favourite spot on our old but newly upholstered couch. I’ve also built beautiful new memories here with both of my parents, who always give me the royal welcome on my all-too-brief trips back here to spend time with them.
They are also the perfect vegan-venturing partners and are always willing to let me drag them to obscure eateries, shops and spots. So, without further ado, I give you the very first version of my vegan Cairo travel guide!
I’m not going to lie, Cairo traffic can be quite a daunting thing to maneuver, so when I read about Ginza – a Japanese restaurant that not only had a decent selection of tofu-based dishes but was also walking distance from our place, I was sold.
The restaurant was quiet and unassuming, adorned with a few red lanterns. Closer inspection of the menu revealed that they served a selection of Asian cuisines including Indian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese.
I started off with some Miso soup, then followed it up with a tofu and avocado salad.
For my main, I opted for a vegan maki and tofu kimbap roll.
In retrospect I should’ve ordered something more substantial like a curry or stir-fry dish, but all-in-all the food wasn’t bad at all. Was it the most authentic Asian food I’ve ever tried? Undoubtedly no, but it did satisfy my hankering for tofu, and I greatly appreciate that the management caters for vegans and will happily replace the chicken or beef with tofu in most dishes.
Those who know anything about Egyptian cuisine know that no trip to Cairo is complete without a hearty meal of Koshary.
Comprised of lentils, rice, pasta and topped with crispy fried onions, rich tomato and fiery chili sauces – it is the quintessential national dish and the ultimate Egyptian comfort food.
Enter the infamous Koshary Abou Tarek – located in the heart of downtown Cairo, this place is always teeming with hungry clientele on all five floors. The debate about who serves the best Koshary in the city is one that will probably go on for years to come, but personally – Abou Tarek has my vote.
I opted for the “special” which came with extra chickpeas and lentils (yes please), and definitely went heavy handed on the fried onions. Needless to say, this place is a must-visit for an authentic and completely vegan Egyptian meal.
Koshary Abou Tarek is located at 16 Maarouf street, Champillion, Downtown, Cairo. | Tripadvisor Page
While we’re on the topic of Koshary, if you’re in the mood for something a little more wholesome, then Zooba is where it’s at. Zooba is a home-grown urban, grab-and-go concept that serves Egyptian street food with a hip and dare I say millennial–appropriate twist.
Being a self-proclaimed branding geek, I instantly fell in love with Zooba from the look and feel of their Korba branch, and I’m happy to report the food didn’t disappoint either.
I decided to try the whole grain Koshary – a delightful blend of crushed whole wheat, brown lentils, broad bean sprouts, chickpeas, carrots, green peppers, cauliflower topped with fried onions plus tomato and chili sauce, alongside some perfectly cooked beetroot salad in orange and coriander dressing.
It’s worth mentioning that in addition to serving up healthy, non-fussy and tasty fare, Zooba’s menu is very clearly marked for allergens, vegetarian and vegan options.
Zooba can be found across Cairo at six locations in New Cairo, Korba, Maadi, Zamalek, City Stars (Nasr City) and AUC. |Website
Having followed them on social media since their opening in Cairo, I vowed to make this trip the one where I would finally visit Sea Salt Bakery & Cafe in Zamalek.
Famed for being Egypt’s first-ever gluten-free bakery, they have a brilliantly labeled allergen menu with vegan as well as dairy and sugar-free items galore.
I caught up with a dear old friend of mine there, and we both opted for “The Healthiest Burger Ever” with a side of Egyptian sweet potato fries.
The burger was, in my opinion a little bit under-seasoned, so I’m not sure that I would order it a second time. The service, ambience and overall atmosphere at Sea Salt Bakery was lovely however, and I definitely appreciate any establishment with such a well-thought-out menu.
All photos courtesy of Sea Salt Bakery & Cafe. Sea Salt Bakery & Cafe is located at 6 El-Mansour Mohammed, Abu Al Feda, Zamalek, Cairo | Facebook Page
Following a morning of sightseeing around Old Cairo, my parents and I headed to Rotana Cafe in Maadi for a quick Lebanese lunch.
We ordered mezzes to share including hummus (of course), tabbouleh and batata harra (spicy potatoes with garlic and coriander).
For my main, I opted for their quinoa and grilled veggie salad, which was totally vegan including the mustard-based dressing.
All-in-all, a tasty and satisfying meal! Lebanese food never fails
Rotana Cafe is located at Nile Point, Corniche ElNil, Maadi, Cairo. | Facebook page
For a sweet treat, I can’t recommend the vegan chocolate gelato from Stavolta enough. Stavolta claims to be the purveyor of Cairo’s only authentic homemade Italian gelato, and although I can’t vouch for the non-vegan flavors, what I have tried is on par with the likes of Italian chains like Amorino and Grom in the UAE.
Stavolta has three locations across Cairo in Korba, Maadi and Sheikh Zayed | Facebook page
I was also very excited to try Kaju’s raw vegan ice cream but wasn’t able to buy a whole tub for fear that it would melt while we were out and about, so instead I opted for some of their Chococo Truffles from Nature’s Market in Zamalek.
All of Kaju’s treats are raw, vegan, dairy and sugar-free – they also offer vegan cheese and pesto for those who are more inclined to opt for something savoury. Check out their Facebook page for information on how to order their products and where you can find them in-store.
For my final meal in Cairo, my parents and I decided on The White Owl, a charming little eatery in Maadi.
We shared the butternut squash salad which was alright – I could’ve done without the ambiguous spice mix that came on top.
Then came the star of the show – freshly made vegan pasta in a tomato and cream sauce with bell peppers, mushrooms and fresh herbs.
Seeing as fresh pasta is usually not vegan, this was a real treat.
For dessert, we ordered the vegan peanut butter and banana ice cream, which tasted something between a banana soft-serve terrine and a snickers bar.
The White Owl is located at 7 Road 216 intersection with 206, Maadi as Sarayat Al Gharbeyah, Al Maadi, Cairo | Facebook page
- Gourmet Egypt
- Sunny Market
- Nature’s Market
- ABA Market
(Wide selection of faux meats available at Nasr City branch)
Tel:0127 563 3226
- El Market
Tel: 0102 015 5599