Apps, Bloggers and Digital Culinary Art: How Tech Has Changed Cairo’s Food Scene



Sat, 01 Apr 2017 - 03:58 GMT


Sat, 01 Apr 2017 - 03:58 GMT

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

The food and dining scene in Cairo has changed dramatically in the last years. With the rise of apps and social media, food is just a few clicks of the button away, while bloggers can make or break a restaurant with a single review.


by Anna Bernsen


A night out in Cairo may look like this: If you feel like eating at home, dinner is either ordered via Otlob, an app that delivers meals from nearby restaurants, or you order groceries from the app GoodSmart and cook the delicious-looking recipe your friend shared on Facebook. Of course, your meal must be accompanied by the right wine or beer, which you order from Drinkies. If you feel like going out to eat, you switch to the app OpenTable, where you reserve a table at the restaurant your favorite food blogger recommended. You get there easily by fetching a ride with Uber or Careem.


Tech is changing the capital’s food scene in Cairo in a number of ways with smartphone apps making it more convenient to order food and tech-savvy bloggers delivering daily inspiration and influencing where we choose to eat our next meal.


“I use tech all the time for my blog, in the entire process actually. Starting with the invitation I get on my e-mail or Instagram account for events and on to the gadgets and devices where I create my content, edit it and post it,” says Omar Shabrawy, the foodie behind Omar’s Food Blog.

[caption id="attachment_581460" align="aligncenter" width="300"] courtesy of Omar Shabrawy[/caption]

Jim Leff and Bob Okumura are thought to be the creators of the first food blog, an online discussion forum about food in New York City called Chowhound. “That was back in 1997, but it was not until the early 2000s that blogs became mainstream, and topics ranging from politics to fashion were explored and discussed on the blogs. And it took another 10 years before blogs became really popular in Egypt, points out blogger Noha Serageldin, author of Matters of the Belly, who currently lives in Australia.


“When I left Egypt a couple of years ago, nobody even knew what a food blog was. We were quite far behind, but thankfully things have caught up in the last few years. I think it has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for food creators, as well as food enthusiasts, and has facilitated a place where like-minded people are able to find each other and connect, collaborate and create together, which I think is wonderful,” adds Serageldin.

[caption id="attachment_581461" align="aligncenter" width="300"] courtesy of Noha Serageldin[/caption]

The trend has caught on and today competition between bloggers is quite fierce, which is why many bloggers need to be present on several social media platforms, with accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


The benefits of owning a successful blog can be tremendous. From invitations to food tastings and restaurant openings to book deals and lucrative collaborations with big companies, bloggers have just as much influence on the food scene as professional food critics—if not more.


Mido Barsoum of Mido Eats is one of the bloggers who have noticed the increasing number of blogger event invitations from Cairo’s restaurants, cafés, and bars. “Restaurants are going crazy trying to invite food bloggers and digital publications to every occasion to promote their establishments. In many cases there are also mutual benefits for famous bloggers and brands, as brands are willing to offer monetary compensation for blog content that features known faces from the food blogging community,” Barsoum explains.

[caption id="attachment_581462" align="aligncenter" width="300"] courtesy of Mido Barsoum[/caption]

But by inviting the entire food blogger squad to a happening, restaurants and food companies are also taking a risk. “Although social media can help food bloggers, restaurants, caterers and F&B companies succeed, it can also kill them, if their recipe or dish doesn’t live up to expectations,” says Sara El Refaie, who shares her recipes via her blog Kitchen Keys.


Shabrawy agrees. “Now people find the best and worst restaurants, what to get or avoid at each of these restaurants, and see photos of the food, all with the click of a button. Tech and social media have become modern versions of the classic marketing channel word of mouth.”


In the following pages we talk to five of Egypt’s most influential food bloggers and sit down with the man who, some 25 years ago, introduced nightlife to Cairo for his take on how tech has become a game changer on Egypt’s food scene.



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