Around the World in Houston: Discover Egypt

around-the-world-in-houston-discovering-egypt
Photo courtesy of Byblos Houston

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

Explore the arts of the ancient world, learn Arabic, try your hand at belly dancing and feast on specialties like kushari and ful medames; These are just a few of the ways to explore Egyptian culture in Houston.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Houston Egyptian Festival Engage in and celebrate the rich culture of Egypt at this annual festival. Now in its second year, the 2017 festivities will be held on October 28 at Discovery Green. Feast on spit-roasted chicken and beef shawarma, fried falafel, Egyptian salad, kushari and kufteh kabobs; ride and take pictures with camels; learn about ancient Egypt while exploring its art; dance to the sounds of hand-held drums, rattles, castanets, bells, and the sistrum; and enjoy live performances by Arabic artists, belly and folk dancers and more.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • Arab American Cultural & Community Center Formed in 1995, the Arab-American Cultural and Community Center is a non-profit organization that offers cultural programs, outreach, and social services. The group promotes Arab culture and heritage, serves as a liaison and resource center, and sponsors social and educational events like culture night and Egyptian, Tunisian, and Libyan celebrations. Its summer camp curriculum also offers introductory Arabic classes for kids in three levels.
  • Egyptian American Society of Houston – This community organization promotes Egyptian-American heritage and culture and connects Egyptian-Americans living in Houston, from artists, professionals, and scientists to builders, businessmen, and businesswomen.
  • Hall of Ancient Egypt at the Houston Museum of Natural Science – This permanent collection showcases the ancient Egyptian civilization, which flourished for more than three millennia in the Sahara desert. See the primary civilization in its full glory, from hieroglyphics artifacts collected during these early days of exploration to exhibits comparing old-style archaeology with 21st-century approaches. The Museum even has its own mummy, Ankh Hap.
  • Arts of the Ancient World at the Menil Collection The Menil’s holdings of art from the ancient world span an impressive 20,000 years of artistic achievements, with over 600 pieces of Paleolithic artifacts and objects from the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean, Egypt, and the Near East.
  • Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Art Houston – Art of the ancient world greets museum visitors in the atriums of the Audrey Jones Beck Building. Glowing with natural light, works from ancient Egypt include a spectacular coffin of the priest Pedi-Osiris and a rare sculpture of the god Thoth as an ibis.

Egyptian Food & Drink

Restaurants, Food Trucks & Bars

  • Al Basha Mediterranean Grill – This fresh cafe brings authentic Mediterranean eats to the Clear Lake area, from hummus and fava bean salad to falafel and shawarma.
  • Alwadi Mediterranean Sandwiches – It’s not just about pita sandwiches at this Mediterranean grill; you can also get delights like hummus, dolma, and basbousa, a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made from semolina and soaked in syrup.
  • Byblos Houston – Head to this upscale Mediterranean restaurant for nightly dinner shows and live entertainment. The eatery offers a dance floor, hookah lounge, and a large patio.
  • Café Luxor – Decked out in luxe Egyptian décor, this Washington Ave hookah bar and restaurant is a great time. Visit for falafel, hookah, and belly dancing.
  • Chef on the Run – It’s all about shawarma and kebabs at this popular halal food truck.
  • Dandanah Cafe & Grill – This hookah bar and grill dishes out traditional Egyptian offerings—hawawshy (Egyptian meat pies), mombar (sausages stuffed with spiced rice),  koshary (rice, macaroni and lentils), and ful medames (stewed fava beans) simmered in tomatoes, cumin, and lemon tahini—alongside modern offerings like brick oven “King Tut” pizzas and Nutella feteerah. Don’t miss the DJ rocking out every Friday and live belly dancing every Saturday.
  • Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill – Fill up on Egyptian koshari, falafel, hummus and baba ghanoush, and chicken, shrimp, beef, and lamb kabobs. The popular grillhouse rocks five Houston locations.
  • Mediterraneo Market & Café – With locations in Nassau Bay and Falcon Pass, this vibrant Mediterranean café offers kofta, stuffed grape leaves, kebab plates, falafel wraps, and a house Egyptian salad packed with tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, lemon, and fresh mint and parsley. Look out for live music and belly dancing.
  • Oddball Eats – Hit this food truck for legitimately awesome falafel offerings—including falafel sandwiches and a ball-packed Egyptian breakfast plate, plus specialty items like lamb chorizo fries.
  • Ranosh Cafe – Get Middle Eastern specialties at this casual Woodlake cafe, and be sure to check it out for hookah, coffee, and tea, too.
  • Wael’s Mediterranean Cuisine – This Bay Area joint slings falafel, kabob, and shawarma pitas in addition to specialty Mediterranean plates.

Groceries & Bake Shops

  • Droubi’s Bakery & Deli – In addition to offering Middle Eastern groceries, this Hillcroft food bazaar boasts a selection of baked goods and fresh deli items, from date-studded sweets and lamb shawarma to specials like Egyptian molokhia (braised greens).
  • Phoenicia Specialty Foods – This bustling international market has two locations, both of which offer fresh produce, meats and seafood, cheeses and baked goods, and a plethora of gourmet eats, with a special focus on Mediterranean cuisine. Take home freshly baked pita, piping hot and traveling through the stores on conveyor belts; pick up prepared foods like baba ghanoush, hummus, shawarma, and slow-roasted lamb shank; check out the butcher and seafood shop for halal meats; and shop for fava and lentil beans, nuts, dried fruits and pastes, ancient grains, imported teas, and spices like mastic, mint, sumac, and za’tar.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Arabic Language Institute – Established in 2015, this language school was formed with the purpose of teaching languages to the youth of Houston and surrounding areas.
  • Arabic at the European School of Languages – These Arabic classes are designed for all adults and education professionals who either want to start learning Arabic for the first time or want to maintain/improve their level of comprehension and pronunciation.
  • Foreign Language Program at Rice University – Rice University offers an eight-week Arabic language course for both beginner and intermediate levels.
  • Egyptian Expat Meet-Ups – Connect with Egyptian expats through meetup sites like internations.org.
  • NiaMoves – Treat the mind, body, and soul while learning the art of Egyptian belly dancing with a class at this spirited Heights-area studio. Beginner and intermediate lessons are available.