As you might already know, Bellies En-Route was recently nominated and published on The Guardian’s 10 of the best ethical holidays.
It was an incredible surprise that we were nominated by one of our guests who toured with us in December 2018, and since we were selected, we knew we had to share more of our vision of turning Bellies En-Route into the most ethical, sustainable, responsible and environmentally-friendly business it has the potential to become.
Food waste has always been a huge topic of discussion globally, every year thousands of tones of food get thrown out, food that is clean, edible and probably delicious too. Being a business that revolves entirely around food and its impact on people’s lives, we wanted to make sure that we did our part contributing to a more ethical stance towards food.
We started Bellies En-Route in 2016, not knowing if the market is ready to take on food tours in Cairo due to a lot of concerns like safety, food hygiene and simply whether people would be willing to explore our particularly under-rated cuisine. To our surprise, the demand was high and the market was hungry for food tourism (pun-intended) in Egypt.
As soon as we started taking people on our tour, we started noticing how we would have to cut down our tour length/portions dramatically if we wanted all the food to be eaten with enjoyment. This meant that our guests, who are usually here for a limited amount of time would only get a chance to try a few dishes and call it a day.
Because there is so much to Egyptian cuisine, it just wasn’t an acceptable option for us to get our guests to try 4 dishes and then send them home.
So instead of forcing our guests to eat the food or leave and feel the heaviness and guilt that come with food-waste, we quickly adapted and started asking for all leftovers at every single stop we visited. Now guests also had easy access to being socially-responsible towards the culture they are exploring while having a great time.
Some of our partners were confused as to why we would never leave the food at the restaurant even if it’s a small amount, but soon enough we started explaining that every last bite counts, and that this can literally change someone else’s day, especially when combined with the leftover food from the upcoming stop.
That instantly shifted their mindset and to our delight, if the portion was too small for 1 person, some of our partners started doing something incredible, they started packing the food and adding even more to the leftovers, so that whoever the food ended up with would have enough to eat. We couldn’t believe it, they did it at no extra charge! When we tried to pay for the extras, they declined and insisted that they are glad to contribute too. It would be such a huge understatement if we said we were beyond touched by how quickly they were willing to jump in and support the cause!
Our vision since we set forth on this mission specifically included community awareness and the value of sharing abundance, having a win-win situation with all the vendors we worked with, and if we were to ever negatively impact the community we wouldn’t be here without, we were to stop operating immediately. We could have never expected that our tours would actually inspire such a powerful ripple effect!
Amazingly, more beautiful things started to unfold, and because we made sure to always respect the boundaries of each of the vendors we work with, and clearly communicate what we do and that we were only there to add value, not cause any losses, we have received a tremendous amount of support from every single one of them and we are eternally grateful that we get to experience this everyday.
Being encouraged by a community we weren’t always a part of meant that social divisions that are common in Egyptian society were being torn down, revealing a profound dialogue we had never especially planned for or could have expected. This reason, amongst so many others, fulfills and strengthens the belief that there is so much more to food than just eating, and that food truly brings people together.
Along the way, we learned to always work on not just the authentic food experience we promised to offer, but also to essentially lift the apprehension tied to traveling to Egypt, safety, and any concerns some travelers may have before arriving here. We prioritize this by having our guests immerse first-hand in unfiltered walks and conversations with us and our vendors, sharing stories and highlighting Egyptian generosity.
With all the above being said, we still have so much to learn and so much we hope to transform. We have to admit that because we want to ensure that everyone of our guests is comfortably hydrated during the tour, we still use bottled (plastic) water to guarantee it is safe to drink.
Finally, we wanted to take this chance to send out a huge thank you to our 1000+ guests who helped grow Bellies En-Route and be able to add value to people’s lives, making our work so meaningful and fulfilling.
Whether you are someone who has been on our tour already, or someone who has any ideas of how we can make our tours more eco-friendly, we would love to hear from you. To send us your feedback and suggestions, please email us at email@example.com
We vow to always work on making Bellies En-Route as green as possible, and we hope to inspire other businesses in Egypt and around the world to work on becoming more sustainable. We all owe it to the world we live in.