Mohamed Ali Pasha – who ruled the country between 1805 to 1848 and is popularly considered the founder of modern Egypt – brought mango shrubs to the country from his journeys to India and Seilan. At that time, the mango fruit was very popular in Southeast Asian countries.
The first mango tree was imported from India in 1832 and planted in the Shubra palace garden. Only a few types of mangoes were grown in Egypt in those days, and were typically found in palaces across Egypt. The oldest mango trees in Egypt are found in the garden palace of Mohamed Ali Pasha which is now the premises of Ain Shams University’s Faculty of Agriculture.
Today, Egypt has more than 200 varieties of mangoes. Each type has its distinct flavor, smell and taste. The most popular Egyptian varieties are Awees, Fas, Taymour, Alfons, Hendi (Indian).
“The Egyptian mangoes are very popular and enjoyed all over the world. All kinds taste sweet and delicious, even the ones that are lower quality (El-Baladi),” says Abdul Hafeez Hussein, who is one of oldest and largest fruits traders in Souq El-Obour.
Hussein has been in fruit trade for 60 years now. He imports and exports different kinds of fruits from all over the world, including mangoes.
“All the Egyptian fruit traders respect newly implemented government policies to rationalise foreign imports and encourage the national industry. Now, we import only 10 percent of what we used to import in previous years,” Hussein adds.
“We regard the Fas as the father of Egyptian mango varieties. Awees mangoes are the most expensive, followed by Alfons, Taymour, Hendi Menshawi, Kobania, Zebda, Mabrouka, Naomi, and then Arnaba,” said Farag El-Najawy, a seller in one of largest and oldest fruit trading institution.
He deals in all kinds of Egyptian fruits and has been working for 40 years selling fruit to a broad range of retailers and wholesalers.
“The high-income customers prefer to eat Fas, Awees and Alfons, while the rest like the more reasonably priced types like Zebda (butter) and sukari mangoes. The prices range between EGP 20 up to 60,” El-Najawy says.
“Zebda has a very soft [texture]. It is used in all fresh juices shops and restaurants,” he adds.
El-Najawy explained that Zebda mango is the only variety suitable for refrigerated storage, and can last up to 12 months at home.
He added that the best way to store mangoes fresh is to refrigerate them with the skin intact. “Leave them on the counter until they soften and are ready to use them. They can also, be peeled, cubed and placed in an airtight container in the freezer, where they will last for up to six months,” he said,
According to the latest statistics from the Economic Agricultural Affairs Sector at the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation in 2020, Egypt’s total area under mango cultivation reached 310,019 feddans with a total production of 1,203,743 tons.
In the year 2020, Egypt’s total quantity of mango exports were 231 tons with a total value 2,846 thousand pounds.
“Mangoes are the most important fruit crop cultivated in all Egyptian governorates from Matrouh to Aswan governorates,” Hussein adds.
Hussein said that in the past, Ismailia was the main mango producing governorate, growing the best quality fruit. Now, the finest quality is cultivated in the Al-Haram area in Giza governorate, in addition to in the desert districts, Wadi El-Natrun, Tehidi and Ragwa area on the Cairo-Alexandria desert road; Madinet El-Sadat in Menoufia; Abu-Ghaleb, Beni Salama in the Delta and El-Nobaria.
Mango harvest season in Ismailia governorate starts in mid-August and lasts until October. “The decline in mango production in Ismailia governorate was due to climate change and [the emergence of] several diseases. The mango trees in farms become older and less productive. The trees are between 50 or 60-years-old,” El-Najawy adds.
The most popular and bestselling mangoes are Fas, Awees, Alfons and sedika mangoes. “Sedika mango is a new Egyptian kind that has been cultivated for seven years now. These kinds are creamy with no fibre and have a unique sweet sugary taste and texture unlike other varieties,” says Fares El-Qott, a wholesaler specialised in high quality Egyptian mangoes.
“All mango types are good this season and available with reasonable prices this year. The prices [this year] range from EGP 10-30 unlike last year or previous years,” El-Qott says.
“I export Egyptian mangoes to Yemen, United Arab of Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya and European Union countries,” he adds.
The most common foreign mango varieties are Kent, Keitt, Heidi, Naomi, Tommy Atkins and R2E2. “They are attractive with dark green, orange-yellow to red colors,” El-Qott says. “These kinds have mid to large size, elongated and pointed curved shape at one end. They are mostly available late in December after Egyptian national and local mango season ends,” he adds.
“Fresh Egyptian mangoes are the tastiest in comparison to other varieties across the world. They have distinctive sweet flavor, special fruity fragrance, beautiful appearance and mouthwatering taste and high nutritional value,” confirms Dr. Sanaa Ebeid, head of tropical fruits section at Horticulture Research Institute in Giza.
Ebeid is a researcher specialising in mangoes.
“Mangos have tremendous health benefits. They are considered the queen of fruits and fruit of happiness. Mango contains amino acid called tryptophan which helps in formation of serotonin known as ‘the happiness hormone’,” she adds.
Ebeid explains that mangos have other benefits, including being high in fibre, which acts as a natural laxative. It is rich in vitamins A, C, E, zinc, folate, B2, B6, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium. They are a good source of the antioxidants and are anti-inflammatory. It has certain phytochemicals which help in the treatment of constipation, indigestion and soothe uncomfortable symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It alleviates certain symptoms as such as fatigue and mood swings during the menstrual cycle.
She said that the mango tree itself is used in making furniture and the fruit waste (skin and stone) can be fermented to make biogas. In addition, the oil extracted from kernel is used in medical cosmetics, while Arabic gum can be extracted from the tree’s bark. In ancient times, powder made from the bark and leaves was used to heal burns and skin rashes.