I met my Bedouin friend Hemaid several years ago when he invited me one morning…
Egyptians are one of the oldest cultures in the world, so in Egypt you can find some meals and drinks that have existed for thousands of years. One of my favorite drinks in the world is the sugarcane juice in Egypt. It is not ubiquitous, but it is possible to find across the country, from the packed streets of Cairo to the deserted seaside towns of the South Sinai.
The original method of drinking sugarcane juice required a lot of effort. I have drunk sugarcane juice in this ancient way, and it is not easy. You have to cut off with a knife or tear with your hands the plant’s rock-hard outer stalk, bite hard into the somewhat softer inside, then suck hard to get out out the small amount of juice it holds.
Today, when you order a glass of sugarcane juice in Egypt at a shop or a roadside stand, you can watch as it is made for you. The maker of the juice will feed long, uncut stalks slowly into an opening at the front of a rather antiquated machine. It will loudly rumble as it removes the stalk and grinds up the softer inside. After a couple of minutes, a stream of thick and sugary liquid pours into a pitcher.
You can usually identify the shops and stands that sell the juice by the piles of sugarcane sticks stacked on top of each other on the ground outside or the floor inside, or even decoratively arranged in front.
Here’s a video I shot of my favorite, and one the very few, shops in Dahab, Egypt that makes sugarcane juice.