Despite the different social classes of the Egyptian people, the main meal for Egyptians consists of traditional dishes such as beans and falafel, especially during the month of Ramadan, which has only a few days remaining. However, koshary, a light meal for many Egyptians, is especially popular among workers and employees because it is inexpensive, even in this time of inflation. Despite the recent increase in the price of beans and oil, the demand for these items has not decreased.
Abdullah, a young man no more than 20 years old, stands in the street in front of a bean cart, which he owns. His face is pale and burning from the sun. He says, "People eat here everyday, but I still can’t find a suitable place to stand. If I stand in a public crossroad, the police patrol will chase me, and if I go to a posh area, the residents will rebuke me and the municipality will chase me. And if I stand on a side street, the customers will not be able to reach me.” Abdullah adds, “During the academic year, I stood by the student housing where I made a lot of money, and my pot of beans would be empty before 10:00 a.m. But, now, I am forced to stand here until 1:00 p.m. bearing the sunlight until I get enough revenue so I can eat. There are far fewer customers during the summer.”
Concerning the prices prior to the wave of inflation, Abdullah states, "The cost of a plate was one pound, and then it rose to 1.50 pounds [EGP]. However, I can not raise the price more because the customers will not come. If I stand in a better area, such as Dokki, the price would be different. I know a cart owner in Dokki who sells the dish for 2.50 pounds and without pickles. He says the area is better, and the customers are better off. In addition, he offers toasted bread and more beans, and this is the reason for the price increase. But, in the end, it is all the same—beans cooked over a flame.”
Mustafa Assem, a pickle factory owner, says, "Pickling is a very old business, and there is no Egyptian, regardless of his economic class, that would not eat pickles. Most of my customers are beans and falafel restaurants because they serve their dishes with pickles. Normally, the price of pickles does not change much despite the price increases affecting all food items. The price for a kilogram may increase only 10 piastres every year, and this does not affect prices much, and the price for one kilogram will not exceed 8 pounds. However, supermarkets sell the kilogram for 30 pounds because they add different spices and different types.
Haj Emran Ahmed, owner of a koshary store, says he has sold koshary for 50 years, and adds, “We used to sell servings of the dish for 5 piastres or just one tenth of a piastre. He said the business changed a lot—the restaurants got classier and the plates are now china rather than metal. The price has now increased to three or five pounds and koshary has become a stylish meal for many, as well as a filling meal for the poor.”
A dietician at the National Centre for Research, Dr. Laila Mehdi, discussing the nutritional value of the typical diet of the Egyptian, stated: “There are Egyptian meals with high nutritional values, such as beans, that contain a high content of vegetarian protein, iron, and carbohydrates. They contain an even higher amount of nutrition when olive oil and lemon is added. Falafel, which is made from a bean paste, is mixed with other vegetables that add to its nutritional value. Also, koshary is considered a meal that is complete nutritionally, especially when it is served with a salad."
Adel Mohamed, a construction worker, said, “I rely on koshary as my main meal because I am always working throughout the day. It is a light, quick meal that is filling as well."
Another worker, Talaat Ibrahim, said, "Beans and falafel are the main meal for Egyptians. Beans are like reinforced concrete for the stomach; they give me strength to overcome exhaustion and fatigue."