Stories of Three Waters

The bounty of the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Nile River

Lighthouse on the coast of EgyptRAWI Publishing

Two Seas, One River

Egypt is truly blessed by its unique location. To the north, it has kilometres of sandy shoreline along the Mediterranean; to the east the shores of the Red Sea are abundant with flora and fauna; and at its heart runs the river Nile.

Three very different bodies of water, each with its charm, traditions, and most importantly, its abundant bounty of seafood.

Fishing Boats in AlexandriaRAWI Publishing

The Mediterranean

Alexandria, or the “Bride of the Mediterranean” as the Egyptians like to call it, lies along the city’s northern coastline. Historically, it has been a bustling trade centre since the 3rd century BCE, with fishing being one of its most important commercial activities.

Alexandria's shoreline, 'the corniche' as it is locally called, is at the heart of the town, with waterfront cafes and restaurants serving local delicacies, including freshly caught fish.

Grey and red mullet, sole, and sea bass are typical, most often grilled and served alongside an assortment of salads, and special browned sayyadeyya rice and freshly baked bread.

Fishing in Alexandria (2021)RAWI Publishing

Red Sea along the coast of EgyptRAWI Publishing

The Red Sea

With its calm waters and diversity of species, the Red Sea is renowned for diving and snorkeling along spectacular coral reefs, but it’s also famous for some of the most delectable fish including yellowfin tuna, king mackerel, sailfish, grouper, and much more.

Day trips from Cairo to the cities along the Suez Canal for a fish meal are a popular way for Cairenes to spend a free day all through the year.

Nile in AswanRAWI Publishing

The Nile

The Nile has long been the lifeline of Egyptians. A source of water for irrigation, nutrient rich soils to fertilise agricultural lands, transport, and of course food with its fish life. For many Egyptians, the Nile is even their home: living on little boats with little belonging sand living off the water. Millions of Egyptians still rely on the Nile today for their food, whether fishing for their own families or for commercial sale. The Nile in Aswan (in this picture) is particularly beautiful where vistas span across the sparkling blue water, followed by lush vegetation and the yellow mountainous terrain far in the background.

Egyptian Sengari FishRAWI Publishing

Fish on the Menu

Egyptians cook fish in a variety of ways but the sengari method must be the most traditional. Mostly used for Mediterranean white fish varieties, the fish is either filleted or halved and butterflied with the bones removed, and marinated in cumin, garlic, and green pepper.

The fish is then placed in the oven with a mix of vegetables such as sliced tomatoes and onions, green peppers, thinly sliced potatoes and carrots, and drizzled with oil. This impressive main dish is served with a special golden rice cooked with cumin and fried onions.

Egyptian Bulti FishRAWI Publishing

Fish cooked with a wheat bran crust such as this bulti (Nile Tilapia) is another popular recipe. First, the bran is mixed with salt and used to cover the entire marinated fish before cooking. This crust helps cook the fish evenly from the inside keeping it tender and tasty.

The whole fish can be grilled on a barbeque, more common at restaurants, or prepared in the oven. Some people place sliced limes inside the fish cavity, while others marinate it with cumin, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes. Each restaurant and family has its own recipe.

Fried Egyptian CalamariRAWI Publishing

Fried calamari is a favorite snack and is usually served as part of a seafood mezze table that includes all sorts of different salads, tahini, baba ghanoush, and of course, pickles.

Fried Egyptian Seafood PlatterRAWI Publishing

Juicy fried shrimp are another perennial favorite, eaten either as a finger food or in a sandwich with pickled eggplant, chilli peppers, and a drizzle of tahini to bring out the flavour. The best shrimp is said to be from the Red Sea waters around Suez.

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