TEN FOODIE EXPERIENCES
you must try in the Middle East
With traditional recipes that span centuries and a dazzling array of exotic spices and flavours, a journey to Jordan, Egypt or Israel is a feast for any gourmand’s senses.
By Ute Junker.
Beyond its ancient ruins and atmospheric souks, its holy cities and captivating landscapes, the Middle East has another enticing attraction: its distinctive culinary culture. From fresh seafood grilled over coals to sweets drenched in honey, from tribal traditions to family feasts full of ritual, there is plenty to explore. To inspire your culinary odyssey, here are 10 flavours and feasts you should experience in this region with Scenic.
ABOVE: Exotic spices
Learn to eat like a Bedouin
Herding their livestock across the deserts of the Middle East, the nomadic Bedouin people developed their own traditions and their own cuisine, which you can experience over lunch at a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum on Scenic’s 8-day Highlights of the Kingdom of Jordan tour. Tip: to eat a dish like zaarb (lamb slow-cooked in a sand pit lined with hot coals), use your right hand to scoop up some food and roll it into a compact ball that gets popped into your mouth.
Discover Egypt’s favourite dip
Hummus reigns supreme throughout the Middle East – except in Egypt, where the dip of choice is always ful medames. Unlike hummus, which is made of chickpeas, ful medames is made of crushed fava beans cooked with lemon juice, parsley, garlic, onion and chilli. Traditionally eaten for breakfast, ful medames is now served at all times of day and in every type of eatery, from street stalls to the most expensive restaurants.
Join a Jewish family for dinner
The best way to get to know someone is over a meal, especially in the Jewish culture where many foods come with ancient traditions attached. On Scenic’s 16-day Jordan & Israel Experience, join a family of American immigrants to Israel for a gourmet meal during a Scenic Enrich experience and get to know more about the central role food plays in Jewish lives.
Quench your thirst with fresh juices
Walk through the streets almost anywhere in the Middle East and you will see vendors selling freshly-squeezed juices. Depending on the season, it might be tamarind or banana or pomegranate. You can always spot when sugar cane is in season. Vendors stack up big bundles of cane stalks which they squeeze through metal rollers to create a frothy, pale-green juice that is hugely popular.
Indulge your sweet tooth in Jordan
Jordanians love their coffee bitter and their sweets sweet, and you can sample some of the best sweet treats on Scenic’s 20-day Essence of Egypt & Jordan. Apart from the well-known baklava, locals love luqaimat, doughnuts saturated in syrup, and basbousa – also known as hareesh – a semolina and coconut cake that is often infused with orange blossom or rose water.
Tempt your taste buds at Jerusalem’s biggest market
It's more than the size of the Machane Yehuda market that is dazzling although with 250 stalls, there is plenty to take in. Take a stroll through the market and you will find countless mouth-watering piles of spices, fresh cheeses, meats and baked goods. After dark, the market unveils a different side, when a host of bars and restaurants open their doors.
Taste test Israeli wines
One of Israel’s best-kept secrets is the boutique wineries that have been producing fine wines over the past two decades. On Scenic’s 9-day Highlights of Israel journey, pay a visit to the family-run Flam Winery in Jerusalem during a Scenic Freechoice activity and sample their Old World-style wines, including a superb syrah.
Dine beside one of the world’s ancient wonders
A visit to the mighty pyramids at Giza is one of the highlights of any trip to Egypt – however, guests on Scenic’s 15-day Egypt in Depth itinerary can have a much more intimate experience of these ancient wonders. The experience of enjoying a meal overlooking the pyramids is one that will stay in your memory.
Feast on Egypt’s best seafood
If you love seafood, head for the cities on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, including the ancient port of Alexandria. All kinds of fresh seafood is available here, but a favourite local dish is sayadeya, a baked fish dish cooked with parsley, cumin and a light tomato sauce. It’s best enjoyed with a serve of yellow rice and eish baladi bread.
Enjoy a Jordanian banquet
There’s no such thing as a simple home meal in Jordan – dinners are typically served banquet-style, with the table covered with dishes. Join a Jordanian family for a meal during an exclusive Scenic Enrich experience on Scenic’s 22-day Jewels of Egypt & Jordan itinerary that may include not just falafel and stuffed vine leaves, but also mansaf, the much-loved dish of rice and lamb made tangy through fermented goats milk yoghurt.
Join us on one of our 5-star luxury handcrafted land journeys through the ancient kingdoms of Egypt, Jordan and Israel. With only up to 36 guests (maximum 24 guests in Israel), you will enjoy a more intimate travel experience and gain a deeper, richer understanding of these extraordinary lands.