Marsa Matruh's Culinary Heritage

From Sea to Land, meet the fishermen and bedouins making the most delicious dishes.

Marsa matruh main bay (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Marsa Matrouh's seaside

Marsa Matrouh is a small sea port on Egypt’s northwest coast, known for its picturesque white sandy beaches, which attract thousands of visitors in the summer.  

Fisherman showing his net catch (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Meet the fishermen

There are over 60 small-scale fishermen who fish in the shallow coastal waters and rocky inlets. The fishermen use 200-meter by 15-meter trammel nets to catch small fish.  

Net fishing (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Matrouh’s main bay

Because Matrouh’s main bay is protected from the open sea by a natural breakwater, there is an easy access to the sea for small, oar-powered vessels called feluccas.   

Salted moza (bogue) (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Moza (bogue)

Salting is a preservation method that works with most relatively small fish species. The Bedouin usually use moza (bogue) because it is relatively cheap and locally available, fresh from the sea. 

Moughazel fish - a type of Mediterranean barracuda (2018-01-28) by NawayaNawaya

Grilled, baked, fried and steamed

Bedouin families eat fish on a regular basis. A selection or combination of grilled, baked, fried, and steamed fish may be served in a single meal. 

Salata mashweyya - cooking on griddle. (2018-01-28) by NawayaNawaya

Salata meshweya

Extra fish stuffing is cooked as a side dish salata meshweya.

Fig and olive trees (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Marsa Matrouh's bedouin pastoral livelihoods

Matrouh’s culinary heritage is linked to the bedouin’s pastoral livelihood, following the rainwater, sheep could graze on wild plants. In the summer, orchards in wadis produce figs and olives.   

Barki sheep (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

The Barki sheep

The Barki sheep is the most important animal raised in Matrouh. It is renowned across the Middle East and North Africa for its meat.

Traditional carpet from Marsa Matruh (2020-10-26) by NawayaNawaya

Sheep wool

Its wool is used in traditional carpet weaving. 

Sheppard with barki sheep (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

The Bedouin of Matrouh today

While the Bedouin of Matrouh are now, for the most part, sedentary, pasturing livestock is still central to their culture. 

Ingredients for bzar matruh (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

A few must-try dishes

Flavors of food in Marsa Matrouh are unique, the blend of spices, barley, ways of preserving meat and cooking fish make its destination appealing all year round. 

Deshish bel gedeed - crushed barley meat stew (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Matrouh barley couscous

In Matrouh, barley couscous is eaten with savory and meat dishes, most popularly with Barki sheep meat. Sheep meat would also be dried, and turned into Gideed. The Gideed could store for months throughout the winter, and be quickly rehydrated and cooked in a crushed barley stew.

Stone mill (2018-01-28) by NawayaNawaya

Making Matrouh in a stone mill

A typical Matrouh dish is barley couscous made by crushing the barley using a traditional stone mill. Barley is more widespread as wheat production doesn’t do as well in cold weather. 

Couscousi bel kirsha (2018-01-27) by NawayaNawaya

Matrouh Kirsha

A favorite Kirsha, lamb stomach, is a rich stew that incorporates leftover vegetables such as peas, pumpkin, zucchini, or carrots.   

Roz ahmar bel ferakh - red rice with chicken (2018-01-26) by NawayaNawaya

Matrouh red rice and chicken

Over the years, changing climates have resulted in droughts that have reduced Barki sheep raising by 50%. In parallel the growth of Matruh as a developing holiday destination has increased a demand for other foods and in the 80s the first large scale chicken farm was built.    

Red rice and chicken have now become a regularity in Bedouin traditions, along with their increased involvement in the fishing sector.  

Credits: Story

Curator: Laura Tabet
Writer: Dalia Bassiouny
Research: Bassem Khalifa, Etimad Raafallah
Photography: Ahmed el Abd

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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