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Bottoms up! What to drink in Egypt

See also Stay healthy: Fluids section for hygiene and related info.

Water

Bottled water is available everywhere. The local brands (most common being Baraka, Hayat,Siwa) are of the same price as foreign brand options which are also available: Nestle Pure Life, Dasani (bottled by Coca-Cola), and Aquafina(bottled by Pepsi). Evianis less available and is expensive. A note on the local brand Baraka: while it is perfectly safe to drink this brand of bottled water, some may notice a very slight baking soda aftertaste, due to the high mineral content of its deep well water source.

No matter where you buy bottled water from (even hotels are not entirely reliable), before accepting it, check that there is a clear plastic seal on it and the neck ring is still attached to the cap by the breakable threads of plastic. It is common to collect empty but new bottles and refill them with tap water which drinking a bottle of might make you ill. Not all brands have the clear plastic cover but all the good ones do.

Safety of bottled water

It is important not to buy strange brands, as they may not be safe for drinking. In 2012 the Ministry of Health ordered the following bottled water brands to be taken off shelves:Alpha, Hadir, Seway, Aqua Delta, Tiba, Aqua Mina and Aqua Soteir.

As of 2013, some of the previous ones were licensed, but the Ministry of Health warned against other unlicensed brands:
unlicensed, unsafe brands: (Safa, el Waha, Ganna, Sahari, Life, el Wadi, Zamzam).

However, the Ministry of Health stated that in 2013, there are only 17 licensed brands that are safe to drink. These are:

17 licensed safe brands: (Hayah, Safi, Aqua Siwa ,Siwa, Aman Siwa, Organica, Nahl, Aqua Sky, Mineral, Vira, Nestlé, Baraka, Alpha, Aquafina, Tiba, Aqua Delta, Dasani, Aqua Paris).Of the licensed brands, locals commonly advise tourists to avoid Baraka if possible, as it contains a high concentration of mineral salts and has something of an off flavor.

Juices

Juices can be widely found in Egypt – àSàb(sugar cane; قصب); licorice (`erk sūs  عرق سوس); sobya (white juice; سوبيا); tàmr (sweet dates; تمر) and some fresh fruit juices (almost found at same shop which offer all these kind of juices except licorice may be which you can find another places).

Hibiscus, known locally as karkadē (كركديه) or`ennāb (عناب), is also famous juice specially at Luxor which is drunk hot or cold but in Egypt it is preferred to drink it cold.

Hibiscus and licorice should not be consumed excessively as they may not be safe for those suffering low blood pressure or high blood pressure. Hibiscus may lower blood pressure, while licorice may raise blood pressure.

Alcoholic drinks

Egypt is a predominantly Muslim nation and alcoholic drinks are religiously forbidden (haram) – though not legally – for strictly observant Muslims. That said, Egyptians tend to adopt a relaxed and pragmatic view towards alcohol for non-Muslims and foreigners. It is tolerated by the vast majority of Egyptians and consumed by a sizable number of them. Places which sell alcoholic beverages require special license and pay extra taxes to operate. Alcoholic beverages and bottled drinks are readily available throughout the country (especially in larger towns and cities, as well as tourist centers). Please note, however, that public drunkenness (especially the loud and obnoxious variety) is definitely notappreciated – without caution, you may end up drying out in a police cell.

1. Try to be a good ambassador: if you mustget “tipsy”, confine it to the hotel or very nearby! It’s actually quite rare to see drunken tourists even in the touristic areas. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public and it’s advisable not to attempt to drink in streets; however, on the New Year’s Eve of 2013, many Egyptians in Cairo were seen drunk and holding alcoholic beverages in the streets.

The cheapest alcoholic beverage is beer. Common brands are:Stella (not artois) andSakkara which are common lager beers in Egypt (approx. 4%), both brewed by Heineken’s Egyptian subsidiary, Ahram Beverages Company

2. Other local brands are available, most with a higher alcohol variant that have claimed levels of 8% or even 10%. Foreign brands made under license in Egypt includeHeineken and Meister but are slightly more expensive.

More expensive alcoholic beverages than beer are the carbonated Vodka cocktails, with 10% alcohol, specificallyID Double Edge which is popular with people who drink alcohol.

Do not buy anything you don’t know or suspect, as there might be a risk that it may be counterfeit and have methyl alcohol (a cheap poisonous type of alcohol which causes blindness).

Restrictions on Alcohol

Egyptian laws towards alcohol are officially quite liberal compared to most Islamic countries, except for the month of Ramadan when alcohol is strictly forbidden. During Ramadan only holders of foreign passports are allowed to buy alcohol, by Egyptian law. However, the enforcement of this law is by no means consistent. In tourist areas like Luxor, alcohol is sold even during Ramadan, and those who look like foreigners will not be asked to show passports or other documentation.

During Ramadan alcohol is often sold only in Western-style hotels and pubs/restaurants catering especially to foreigners. A few days of the year, as the day of the full moon the month before Ramadan, alcohol is completely banned. Also some hotels and bars catering to foreigners will stop serving alcohol during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – phone ahead to make sure alcohol is still being served in order to avoid disappointment.

Written by The Travel Valet


By Sandy Karwacki-farber, BA about Egypt

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