Alcohol and Pubs in Luxor
Is alcohol available?
Yes. Although Egypt is a Muslim country, and the majority of local people abstain from alcohol, it is not forbidden. Indeed beer, wine and a few spirits are produced in Egypt (see below). Availability is, however, relatively limited and tends to be concentrated in the cities and tourist areas.
Locally produced alcohol is less expensive than imported varieties, but some, especially the wine, can be an 'acquired' taste. There are imported beers, wines and spirits, but the choice is not huge and they are much more expensive than local alternatives.
Where you can drink alcohol
Most tourist hotels have reasonably well-stocked bars, including local and imported alcohol. Most restaurants outside the hotels are also licensed (although many are not). There are quite a few imitations of the british pub and a few discos. Between these places you will find many American and European brands but by no means all.
Where to buy alcohol to take away
If you want something specific, the best way to make sure you have exactly what you want is to bring it with you if your luggage weight allowance will permit it. Bear in mind, however, that you are only allowed to bring 1 litre of alcohol per adult through customs into Egypt.
If you cannot bring it with you, the best selection is available from a duty free shop. There is a duty free shop near the exit from the arrivals part of the terminal building at Luxor airport. They have a price list on their web site. You can buy up to 3 litres of alcohol and a case of beer on arrival. If you don't get it all in one go, you can get the balance at the duty free shop in town. This used to be in a small street behind the Emilio hotel but is now in a shopping complex next to Karnak temple. Notionally, when you go to the duty free shop in Luxor town you can only get the balance of your duty-free entitlement; it has to be within 48 hours of arriving and you need your passport. In practice, the rules tend only to be applied if you are buying spirits or cigarettes. For beers and other things, the rules tend to be relaxed.
There are two off licences (not duty-free) in Ramses Street, which runs from the station to the left (as you face the station). In Station Street, the road that leads from Luxor Temple to the station, there is an alcohol shop just past the entrance to the tourist market, on the left hand side as you face the station, but it is small, easy to miss and often closed. Perhaps surprisingly, there is also a small off licence in the local part of the market (walk through the tourist market, over the road and keep going. Look out on your left about two-thirds of the way through the local market).
Prices for wine and other alcohol at these off-licences are negotiable. We have found that they usually start at around LE80 per bottle of wine, for example, but will generally settle around LE55 - LE60.
You can also buy imported alcohol from many hotel bars, but the prices will inevitably be higher and the choice more limited. Otherwise, it is worth asking at the various local 'supermarkets'. They are not themselves licensed and do not stock alcohol, but we have found that an innocent enquiry will usually identify someone willing to get it for you.
Some examples of locally produced alcohol
Stella is the most famous brand of beer in Egypt. It has been manufactured in Egypt since the 19th century.
There are three varieties of Stella beer. The best known is Stella local, with an alcohol content of 4.5%. Stella export is a little more expensive and has an alcohol content of 5.2%. Stella Premium is stronger and darker. It is only sold in bottles and has an alcohol content of 6.4%
Sakara is the newest brand of beer in Egypt. It is said to be produced using the best technologies from around the world. The only version is Sakara Gold, which has an alcohol content of 4.0%
Meister is a European brand, licensed and produced in Egypt. Alcohol content is 5.2 %. Meister Max is the strongest beer in Egypt at 8%
Wine is known to have been made in Egypt since around 2600 BC. There are two kinds of wine. One kind uses a process close to the one used by ancient Egyptians. These are known as Giancil wines, after the winemaker who discovered the process.
Today, the best known Egyptian wines are:
A deep dry wine made from cabernet sauvignon and suitable for beef or pasta meals. The bottle should be presented at room temperature. Alcohol content: 12.5%
Cru des Ptolmees
Said to be the successor to the Pharonic wine loved by Queen Cleopatra. It is a fresh, full aromatic wine made of Pinot Blanc grapes and should be served cold. It is best with seafood. Alcohol content: 12.5%
Rubis D' Egypte
This is a medium rose. It has a nose of apples and damp wool. In the mouth it has good acidity with some crabapple flavours mixed with strong alcohol and acetone flavours. It is best served cold with chicken or light salads. Alcohol content: 12.5%
This is a much stronger wine then the others. Alcohol content: 16%.
Giancil style wines:
Chateau des Reves wine
This is Giancils' premium wine. It is made from a variety of imported grapes from Lebanon and is a medium ruby, with a nose of dried cherries and rum. It is one of Egypt's richest wines, ranked by some foreign specialists as the best wine in Egypt. Alcohol content: 13%
The bottle resembles champagne, produced from grapes grown in salt-free soil. Alcohol content: 12.5%
Obelisk wines are probably the best known and are typically around half the price of Giancils wines.
The red wine is a dry wine. It is a light ruby in colour, but has a poor nose. In the mouth it is earthy with flavours of wood and leather but thin and watery on the tongue with little or no finish. Alcohol content: 12.5%
This wine is a light golden colour in the glass with hints of straw and very light aromas of minerals and parchment. In the mouth it has some fruit flavours which are quickly eclipsed with sharp flavours. Alcohol content: 12.5%
This dry rose wine has probably garnered the worst reputation among foreigners of any Egyptian wine. Some foreign wine experts have referred to it as nearly undrinkable. Alcohol content: 12.5%
Grand Marcus wine
Grand Marcus is a superior table wine. It has a typical French name and label, but is made in Egypt, It comes in Red, white and rose varieties, all with an alcohol content of 12.5%. The red is said to be manufactured from the best grapes in Egypt, and then well aged in oak barrels for an extended period of time. A number of foreign wine specialists rank this as one of the best wines in Egypt.
United Distilleries Group (UDG) produce some spirits, including vodka and Auld Stag, a blended whiskey (Scotch). Butler's gin is a London Dry Gin produced by UDG under license.
Other than these well known brands, there are also some Egyptian imitations of many international brands, such as Johnny Walker Whiskey and Absolute Fendlandia Vodka. These bottles are much cheaper than the genuine imported spirits but beware of them, they are positively not the same quality.