Gluten Free in Egypt

view of the nile at sunset We’re just back from a week in Luxor. That’s Luxor, Egypt… and the gluten free member of the family managed just fine. And if we can, you can. Go for it!

Here’s what we did:

  • we packed emergency supplies for the plane journeys, including snacks: but they weren’t needed. We flew EgyptAir, and they provided a gluten free meal in both directions. The bread roll on the way out was branded Lifestyle, so we knew it was OK; however, the one on the way back looked identical to the ‘normal’ ones… she didn’t eat it. Our taste-tester told us it tasted ‘normal’, not gluten free.

    Tip: check everything – don’t assume.

  • we packed Sainsbury’s baguettes and rolls. These varieties need cooking and/or refreshing; we were self-catering, and I knew that the apartment would include a microwave/combi oven.

    Tip: I split the bread-stuffs between the cases, in case one got lost en-route.

  • we packed snacks (rice cakes, gluten free biscuits, peanuts and raisins etc) in both our carry-on luggage and the suitcases.

    Tip: chocolate will melt. Freeze an ice-cube-bag of water because it is flexible when frozen, and put the frozen bag inside a ziplock bag so everything stays dry (for the way out – and for the way back, if you can refreeze it and still need it).

  • we also packed a sachet of Helen’s Bread Mix, so that if we ran out of Sainsbury’s bread, we could make a loaf – which we did, reasonably successfully, in the microwave/combi oven. It did need refreshing daily, because of the heat.

    Tip: pack a silicone loaf tin, as we did, because it is lightweight and squashy.

  • we packed a bag of gluten free pasta (in this case, Doves), in case we decided to eat in one night. In fact, we ate out most nights, and made a pasta salad one day.

    Tip: we used only one portion from a bagful, so I suggest weighing it out into portions, and only take what you’re likely to consume.

  • we took with us two versions of a coeliac card in Arabic, one downloaded from Celiac Travel and another from Gluten Free Jordan, and showed them repeatedly.

    Tip: We got caught out once, when she was offered a cake made with semolina: basboosa. As you know, semolina is not gluten free – I guess that travel cards typically talk about wheat, and not semolina. Remember to check!

We usually self-cater, because we find it easier to manage a gluten free diet that way, but if you’re staying at one of the big hotels, I’m sure they’d provide a gluten free diet too. When eating out, we ordered carefully, and discussed the ingredients (in English) whenever we were doubtful. Restaurant staff were typically very helpful, and eager to get things right for us. We also took our time in the local supermarket, and bought basic, unprocessed foodstuffs (meat, cheese, fruit, salad, yoghurts etc).

We stayed here (yes, the image above is of the Nile at sunset from the apartment complex), and had a wonderful time: tombs, temples, mummies, ballooning and boats, and above all warmth and sunshine.

If you’re thinking about visiting Egypt, do it soon: Luxor was very quiet indeed. We think that people must be nervous of visiting Egypt because of the Arab Spring, but the local population relies on tourism, particularly independent tourists, as coach tours typically have a set route for everything, including restaurants and shops. The felucca captain who took us upstream for a tour of a banana plantation and shared riddles and mint tea on his boat (cooked over an open flame – slightly unnerving) told us that he hadn’t had a tourist on board his felucca for 3 months…

It is possible to stay gluten free in Egypt. We’ve done it.

Gluten Free Wheelin’ and the Open Road: A musicians perspective

Darius Lux is a rock star—and is also gluten free. I asked him how he manages to live gluten free while on the road… travelling at all is often difficult enough for coeliacs, but how does he manage, travelling the world?

Find out more about Darius, and listen to some of his preview tracks too. I really enjoyed No Problem.

Do you pack food from home?

Absolutely, there is no other way unless I know exactly what is available wherever I am going (which is rarely). A lot of festivals and venues very kindly have food for musicians to eat, but even if it’s really healthy food it will still usually have a lot of gluten in it – I used to wing it and kinda hope to find gluten-free foods but after a while you just don’t want glutens in your body for any reason and so prepping at home is the best.

How easy is it to find food in different countries?

Thats an interesting question, it depends on a lot of factors. I think that South East Asia can be good because there are areas that don’t particularly make their food from the traditional (Western) glutenous staples such as wheat or white flour. They will often have rice as the main carb at almost all meals, and often brown rice is available. As much as I grew up loving Italian food, in Italy it was tough avoiding glutens because so much of their best cuisine is pasta or bread based, tho I have to say I found the food in italy a lot less allergenic than here in the US. I think once you know what your restrictions are you get good at finding what you need mostly anywhere you go. The Australian outback is a tough one too, especially when you really get out into the desert – tho that might warrant trying some of the ancient Aboriginal cuisine such as bugs! Bugs don’t appear to be glutenous LOL.

What is the easiest country (in your experience, as a visitor) to find gluten free food?

Thailand – hands down. Almost everything is rice-based and incredibly delish – even the noodles are rice based, coupled with a strong tradition of reverence in the food preparation and Vegan tendencies of the culture. India too if you can avoid the famous breads, there are still countless curry dishes that pair well with rice.

Any tips for travelling gluten free?

Simplest is to make sure you have a strong staple on you, I often like to keep trail mix and dried fruit handy, they satisfy appetite well and are relatively light to pack and carry – you have to make peace with the fact that you probably wont find what you’re looking for a lot of the time.

Secondly, when I traveled in countries that have less English speakers in them, I would find somebody at the hotel or airport or wherever and have them write a sign for me in their native language explaining my food allergy – this helped a lot along the road in more remote areas and saved a lot of confusion.

What food do you miss (and eat first on returning home!)

My favorite is a rice-based pizza crust with tapioca cheese and roasted veggies on it – the BEST!

Thanks Darius!

Allergy Free Passport used for real

You may remember that I blogged about receiving a copy of the Let’s Eat Out series some time ago …

Lets Eat Out Phrasebook

Husband and coeliac daughter are just back from a skiing holiday in Austria, and they took the Multi-Lingual Phrasebook* with them.

They thought that overall, it was great, and a real help. Just having the book gave them more confidence going into a restaurant.

My husband suggested that you should practice the phrases beforehand to avoid (as he puts it) going ‘bibble’ at the key moment, and he also suggested that you should highlight (probably with a highlighter, though perhaps Post-Its would work) the key phrases that you would most commonly want to use, so that you could find them quickly.

They had a few comments:

  • that they needed a pocket English/German/etc dictionary to supplement the phrase book. At one point they phoned me (here in rural England) from a restaurant in Austria to ask me to translate a German phrase, which I did by searching on the internet – I don’t speak German either.
  • that they would have liked guidance on how to read foreign language ingredient lists. For example, the ingredient lists on the back of chocolate bars were only in German and French. I could probably have managed to decode the French, but the German would have been completely beyond me, as it was them.
  • that they would have liked guidance on translating the standard phrases that appear on the back of packets (you know, “may contain traces”, or “manufactured in a facility that handles wheat”)
  • crucially, they would have liked 3rd person phrases as well as 1st person, or some guidance on how to modify the sentences. After all, he was describing his daughter, and isn’t coeliac himself.

And my husband suggested that it would be helpful to add phrases such as:

Can you please check (with the chef) that this dish contains no gluten (wheat, rye or barley)

I think a pronunciation guide would be helpful too.

Overall, though, a thumbs-up, and I expect the book will be going with us when we go to France in the summer. Though both he and I are better at French than German …

*(affiliate link)

Need the Greek for “gluten free”? Here’s help …

The Food Allergy Translation Card will give you peace of mind when consuming meals knowing that others have taken your allergies or special diet seriously. With over 175 food allergies, and 11 special diets including gluten-free (celiac), vegetarian, and kosher, you can be assured that your dietary restrictions will be conveyed in all of our available languages.

Springwise alerted me to this “new” service tonight – too late for my recent holiday. It isn’t a new service, of course, as there have been allergy cards available for a while, but this does seem to have been thought through well. You can customise the cards for your own dietary requirements and linguistic needs; print out cards immediately, rather than waiting for delivery; and you can print as many as you think you might need.

Languages include: Greek, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Czech, Norwegian, Slovenian, Croatian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Romanian.

Dietary restrictions include 175 different foodstuffs, some of which I had no idea you could be allergic to. Camel? Vanilla? Learning something new every day keeps your brain alive, I guess.

175 foods in 22 languages should keep you going for a while.

Interestingly, there is no ‘translate this page’ button on the site. You’d think that at least some of their potential customers would not have English as a first language, but would need a card translated into English, and an explanation of the product in their native language. Perhaps this is something for Phase 2.

Nevertheless, this looks like a good service, and I wish them well.

Going somewhere? Try the Celiac Handbook

I may be late to the party here, but I’ve only just come across the Celiac Handbook site.

In case there’s anyone else who doesn’t already know it: this looks like a great resource.

It lists restaurants that provide gluten free food in countries across the world – so if you were visiting a country, it would give you some ideas for where to eat out – and, perhaps almost more useful, gives a list of supermarkets in different countries that stock gluten free food as well as links to the coeliac society for many countries.

The supermarket section is mostly US-based, and could do with some expansion (I can think of a couple of supermarkets in Spain that aren’t included, for instance – Supercor, Mercadona and Iranzo all stock gluten free food) but is a great start, and would be very helpful if you were visiting the States. As far as the UK goes, it lists Sainsbury’s, which does indeed have a good Free From section, but none of the others which have a Free From section (Tesco’s, Morrison’s, Waitrose, Asda). But Sainsbury’s is the best for gluten free, so perhaps they’re just going for quality!

I was disappointed to find that there were no restaurants listed near me (but not at all surprised, as I don’t actually know of any myself) – nor is there a listing for the celiac society for Greece, the country we’re visiting next week. This may be that there isn’t one – the Coeliac Youth of Europe site doesn’t list one either – and Greece is a country where it is very easy to eat gluten free. Perhaps Greece doesn’t have significant numbers of coeliacs?

I shall definitely be logging this site as a useful source of information, and suggest that if you haven’t already visited, that you should pop over and have a look.