Topics include Dining Scene, Egypt: For Foreign Visitors & more!
It is a very common occurrence when in Luxor to be invited
to a family home for lunch or dinner by various local people such as taxi
drivers, felucca men, caleche drivers, waiters and other hotel staff. It may be something that you would wish to
do, but if you are a lone traveller, particularly if female, it may be
something that you would wish to avoid.
After all, if you were at home and were invited to the home of a taxi
driver you did not know and had never met before, would you go – of course you
If you do not wish to take up these offers to visit local homes, be polite but firm and tell them that you do not wish to go. Some can be very insistent and will try to pressurise you into visiting, but again be very firm and refuse. Do not feel that this is something that you have to experience if you do not feel comfortable with it. Some will act offended by your refusal, but stand your ground if you do not wish to visit the house. It can be quite hard work getting them to understand that you simply do not want to go as the taxi/caleche driver etc. may think that you do not want to visit because his service to you has been poor.
A visit to a family home can be a very enriching experience
and you will certainly get a taste of what real Egyptian life is all about, but
it is not something that would be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’.
However, if a visit to a local house is something that you would like to experience if you are asked, as you probably will be, here are a few pointers to consider.
The Family Home
The family home may not be in the town of Luxor itself. Many are in the outlying villages or over on the West Bank. This is particularly so if it is a waiter who is asking you to visit his home. Probably on your first visit, your host will collect you and take you there, but if this becomes a regular occurrence if you are a repeat visitor to Luxor, not all your hosts will do this, so it may be that you will have to find your own way there. Very often these local people will be living in poverty but they will offer you all the ‘comforts’ of their home and they will feed you very well – bear in mind that hygiene will not be as it is in your hotel or at home, but hot water, soap and towels may well be offered to you. You will be accepted into their home as ‘part of their family’ and you will be treated as such.
Dress conservatively to respect the household, in particular the women of the family. In respect of ladies, don’t wear tight fitting scanty tops or shorts. In the case of men, don’t wear vest tops or shorts or go bare-chested.
It is polite to take the family a gift such as a cake or sweets for the children (these can be bought locally). If you are a repeat visitor, you will probably want to bring gifts over from the UK. Everything will be appreciated, but gifts will be taken and squirreled away. Don't be offended by this, they just don't show their appreciation in the same way as gifts are accepted here in the UK etc.
You will find that that your host will make you very welcome and he will eat with you, but the women of the household will not. They do all the cooking but wait in the background until you are finished and do not eat with you. In most cases, the family will be Muslim and alcohol will not be served to you. Visiting men may shake hands with the ladies of the family, but are not allowed to kiss their cheeks as the local menfolk do when greeting their lady guests. Very often you will be asked to take your shoes off at the door prior to entering the home. When at the table and you are finished eating, it's best to leave some uneaten food on the plate - if you finish the whole lot, they will pile more and more on and won't take no for an answer!! It is actually local etiquette and considered 'polite' to accept at least two additional helpings of food during the meal so you should bear that in mind and not 'eat your fill' with the first 'helping', as you will be expected to accept at least two more helpings (considered very impolite if you do not), so guests should 'pace' their food intake with that in mind.
Although you may be sitting at a table, in many Egptian homes this is not the case and to eat you may well be sitting on the floor - it could be tiled, carpeted or it could even be a mud floor! A large round tray of assorted dishes will be put in front of you and the participents of the meal will be given bread and then you all share from the communal bowls. Depending on the food being served you may be given a spoon. It is still a good idea to take bottled water with you. Your host may provide it, or the local water may be perfectly OK to drink, but nevertheless your host will understand and not be offended if you take some just in case.
Some of the local menfolk who invite you to their house are
genuine and just want to show off their families and possessions to you. They do not have much, but what they do have
they are VERY proud of. However, some of
them are just out to make a bit of cash from you. They see the ‘westerners’ as ‘cash machines’
and may start to play on your conscience by telling you that one of the children
or other member of the family needs an operation and they don’t have the cash
to provide this. Of course, you are
going to feel sorry for them and may be compelled to give them a monetary contribution
towards this. However, stories like this
are often not true and only used to relieve you of some of your hard-earned
If you visit the house once and are a repeat visitor to
Luxor, you will be expected to visit on each and every visit to Luxor. Depending on how ‘genuine’ the family is, you
may be asked to bring them over high value gifts such as mobile phones. If you
have been very generous with gifts on your first visit, you may be expected to
provide the same generosity on your subsequent visits. It’s the same with cash –
if you have given a gift of cash on your first visit, then this may well be
expected each and every time. It
entirely depends on whether the family genuinely wish to be your friends or if
they are ‘on the make’, and this may not be evident until after a few visits to
the family home.
You also need to be aware that perhaps your host will be the only person who can speak English, and that’s sometimes just a smattering, so it can be very hard work communicating with everyone.
You may find that the family like to have their photos taken and many will turn up in their best clothes with beaming faces ready for you to take photos! As long as you have their permission to do so, you can take as many photos as you wish.
Some photos of what your 'feast' may look like