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Egypt's beer industry toasts long history

Despite the Islamic arguments against alcohol, beer has long been a successful industry in majority-Muslim Egypt.
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“Without a doubt, every group of people needs a distraction. For example, there’s arak in Turkey and Lebanon. We wish for beer to become the popular drink in Egypt," Ismaʿil Hafez, a Muslim Egyptian employee of of Pyramid Brewery said to then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in a brief conversation at the inaugural Egyptian Industrial and Agricultural Fair Jan. 3,1960. Hafez added, "It is my pleasure to inform you that it was the ancient Egyptians who first manufactured beer." Hafez was not speaking on behalf of an upstart company, but for one that had flourished in Egypt in various incarnations for more than 70 years.

This company, now called Al-Ahram (Arabic for "pyramid") Beverage Company, still exists today in Egypt, although its public visibility has diminished. While the contemporary trend of Islamic religiosity makes it hard to imagine, there was a time when a flashing sign for Stella, the company’s flagship brand, could sit atop a Cairo building.

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