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spices market cairo egyptEgyptian cuisine depends heavily on fresh ingredients -- herbs, spices, garlic, lemon, vegetables -- and its two staples are fava beans and aish, the national bread that's a mixture of plain and whole meal flour and looks like a darker, round version of pita bread. You can sample the cuisine in one of Cairo's many restaurants, although the better ones are in Garden City, Zemalek Island and other affluent areas of town. If you're worried about your stomach, stick to indoor places that draw large crowds instead of eating from stands or stalls.

Note: Egypt is a country that lives on tips; you'll find yourself making small bakeesh payments to everyone from the man who hands you a flashlight at the pyramids to the woman who guards the public toilets. In restaurants, you'll want to tip between 10 and 15 percent.

Six Tips for Dining Abroad

The Garden Promenade Cafe at the Cairo Marriott on Zemalek Island is a favorite of wealthy Cairenes and tourists alike -- and it's no wonder. It's one of Cairo's few secluded outdoor spaces -- an oasis, housed in a 19th-century palace on the Nile. Menu options include freshly made pasta, pizzas, salads and traditional dishes, such as kebabs and kofta, or ground meat. There's also a bakery inside the hotel that serves 14 types of bread, 28 French pastries and Movenpick, a terrific Swiss ice cream. It's pricey, though. A lunch for four can easily run 500 L.E. or more.

Also on Zemalek Island: Sequoia, a sprawling lounge that will make you feel like you're among Cairo's fabulous. Sit in comfy chairs under the tent-like tarp, enjoying the breezes off the river while you eat sushi or smoke a shisha (water pipe). As befits a Muslim city, Cairo doesn't have a ton of places to drink alcohol, but this is one of them. Reservations are recommended, and there's a minimum charge. It's on Abu El Feda Street at the northern end of the island.

Once the home of wealthy pashas, leafy Garden City is now the home to the American and British embassies, as well as top Western hotels -- which is why the neighborhood is surrounded by Egyptian security forces.Tell them that you're going to Taboula, a warm restaurant with Middle Eastern decor and Lebanese meze favorites such as hummus, grape leaves, grilled cheese and baba ganoush. The restaurant is tucked away at 1 Latin American Street.

For fantastic seafood and Middle Eastern salads, the moderately priced Americana Fish Market is as good as it gets. Diners choose from a large selection of freshly caught fish. Then choices are weighed, cooked to order, and served with salads and aish, produced right out of the kiln. On top of that, the restaurant is located on the upper deck of a permanently moored boat on the Nile. The restaurant is located at 26 Sharia al Nil in Giza.

In Giza, Khan El Khalili in the gorgeous Mena House Oberoi Hotel can't be beat for its breathtaking views of the Pyramids. It's open 24 hours, and has a fantastic breakfast buffet. If you're in Giza around dinnertime, check out the hotel's popular Indian restaurant, the Moghul Room.

Cairo has a well-established cafe culture; as you ride through the city, you'll see countless storefronts where men sit outside, having a cup and smoking a shisha filled with flavored tobacco. One of the most famous, the El Fishawy, is in the bazaar. Note that few women smoke shisha in public; if you'd like to indulge, you're best buying a pipe at your hotel or at an expat-heavy restaurant such as Taboula.

Discover Cairo Food and Wine Tours from Viator

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