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Egypt's Beer

Egypt's Beer
Stella, Identity, and the Modern State

The lively story of an iconic beer brand, whose tumultuous business history illuminates the cultural transformations of Egypt over the last century.

December 2019
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264 pages | 6 x 9 | 15 b&w illus. |

Although alcohol is generally forbidden in Muslim countries, beer has been an important part of Egyptian identity for much of the last century. Egypt’s Stella beer (which only coincidentally shares a name with the Belgian beer Stella Artois) became a particularly meaningful symbol of the changes that occurred in Egypt after British Occupation.

Weaving cultural studies with business history, Egypt’s Beer traces Egyptian history from 1880 to 2003 through the study of social, economic, and technological changes that surrounded the production and consumption of Stella beer in Egypt, providing an unparalleled case study of economic success during an era of seismic transformation. Delving into archival troves—including the papers of his grandfather, who for twenty years was CEO of the company that produced Stella—Omar D. Foda explains how Stella Beer achieved a powerful presence in all popular forms of art and media, including Arabic novels, songs, films, and journalism. As the company’s success was built on a mix of innovation, efficient use of local resources, executive excellence, and shifting cultural dynamics, this is the story of the rise of a distinctly Egyptian “modernity” seen through the lens of a distinctly Egyptian brand.

  • Notes on Translation and Transliteration
  • Abbreviations
  • The Egyptian Beer Industry
  • Introduction
  • 1. Grand Plans in Glass Bottles: Importing the Modern Beer Industry into Egypt
  • 2. A Star Rises: Stella and the Egyptian Beer Industry, 1920–1940
  • 3. Crowning the Pyramid: The Egyptian Beer Industry’s “Mature” Period, 1940–1952
  • 4. Stella Is Always Delicious: Selling Beer in the Time of Nasser, 1952–1958
  • 5. A Pan-Arab Brew: Stella and the United Arab Republic, 1958–1961
  • 6. Getting the Dutch Out: How Stella Became the Beer of the Egyptian Regime, 1961–1972
  • 7. Opening Up Stella: The Infitah and the Beer Business in Egypt, 1973–1985
  • 8. An American Pharaoh and the Egyptian Star: Stella, 1985–2003
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Omar D. Foda
Ellicott City, Maryland

Foda is a visiting assistant professor of history at Towson University. He holds a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Pennsylvania, and his work has appeared in several journals and volumes, including The Birth of the Arab Citizen and the Changing of the Middle East.


“An exhaustive study of Egypt's most popular local beer that swiftly turns into a droll portrait of modernity, consumerism and shifting cultural norms.”
Middle East Eye, "The best Middle East books of the year"

“It is notable when a book comes along that succinctly covers so much of the sprawl of Egypt's cultural, political, and economic history, especially when it does so using the subject of beer…Foda has produced just such a remarkable volume…Egypt's Beer will be of interest to a wide cross-section of students and researchers of history, economics, politics, and culture, particularly in its understanding of how these elements intersect one another.”
Al Jadid

“[An] excellent work…[Egypt's Beer] is a book for everyone interested in the history of beer and brewing, both at the national and international level, while simultaneously offering an insight into nineteenth and twentieth century Egyptian history.”
Brewery History

“[Egypt's Beer] tracks the development of modern economics in Egypt, the birth of popular consumerism, and the subsequent cultural ramifications that followed such changes…Foda…has chosen an untraditional lens to view this history: the beer industry.”
Middle East Journal

Egypt’s Beer is an engaging read that provides an important contribution to the growing body of academic works that highlight popular culture’s important relationship to, and impact on, society, politics, and the economy.”
Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt

Egypt’s Beer is a really interesting analysis of the history of beer in a place most us do not think of as a beer place. It is an important story about the place of beer and how beer can be used as a lens for understanding society and culture. It is an important story about how beer can be used to perform class and identity. And as Foda argues, it is an important story for Egypt.”
Food, Culture & Society

“[A] sweeping investigation of 'Egypt's beer' and the inner workings of the industry behind it...Egypt’s Beer constitutes an important contribution to the study of Egypt, consumer goods, and the history of technology in and outside of the Middle East. Foda skillfully scrutinizes the transformation of a multifaceted industry and uncovers the story of an iconic commodity at its center. The resulting history weaves together a wide array of economic, political, and social phenomena integral to the making of modern Egypt.”
International Journal of Middle East Studies

“The threefold power of this work is highlighting the centuries-old international aspect of beer, bringing beer history out of a purely Western realm, and complicating beer history...The book is well written and uses numerous advertisements, novels, and other media, which suggest how Stella informed identity...Typically, beer history tends to examine a particular brewery or a regionally defined brewing industry, such as a city or nation. Foda’s choice of Stella shows how expanding beyond these limitations offers a richer and fuller examination of how beer amplifies local, national, and international histories in concert with economic, social, and political history.”
H-Net Reviews

“Pioneering and seminal, this remarkable scholarly accomplishment is the first work that deals with the beer industry in modern Egypt. It is a major contribution to the study of the history of consumerism and the development of modern economies in Egypt and the Middle East.”
Israel Gershoni, Tel Aviv University, coauthor of Confronting Fascism in Egypt: Dictatorship versus Democracy in the 1930s

Egypt’s Beer is a uniquely well-documented narrative based on an array of archives ranging from the Egyptian state to Heineken to the private papers of the author's grandfather, who was for decades the central figure in beer production in Egypt. It is a significant contribution to the socioeconomic history of Egypt and to our understanding of the country's material, cultural, and business history.”
Relli Shechter, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, author of The Rise of the Egyptian Middle Class: Socio-economic Mobility and Public Discontent from Nasser to Sadat


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