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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Wel3a: Ingenious Shisha Café in Zamalek
Cairo’s myriads of shisha cafés are conveniently dispersed around the city; it’s no feat to get your fix round the clock on the corner of just about anywhere.
However, finding a place that offers you undying, flavourful shisha that blows strong for two straight hours – without having to dig deep inside your pockets – is a slightly different ordeal.
Located on 26th of July Street in the heart of Zamalek, Wel3a offers you just that.
Paying tribute to its predecessor, a baladi ahwa whose regulars streamed in during the late hours of the night, Wel3a crowns itself as Cairo’s first dedicated shisha café. The tiny space is furnished with grey couches and plastic chairs, some of which line up the pavement in front, offering an array of tobacco for those willing to dabble.
While local tobacco providers such El Nakhla and Mizo are on offer for 12LE and 15LE respectively, the café’s edge lies in its imports. Hailing from Jordan and exclusive to Wel3a, Shesh Besh (22LE) is a tobacco blend made from pure honey, guaranteeing a sweeter and slightly richer experience. An unusual blend called Blue Mist is also on offer, hailing from the United States at 25LE.
This reviewer opted for the Fakher blend (18LE), a staple of the Gulf. Needless to say, it was a long, smoky afternoon. The shisha was served with a plastic lay, and coal was changed regularly by the extra attentive waiter. Shishas come in all flavours, as well as the classic meassel.
Go all out and ask for the unlimited option: an infinite round of your favourite shisha served with a warm pot of tea. Available for all tobacco blends, the unlimited option is priced between 22LE and 45LE.
Snacks include sandwiches (22LE to 26LE) including turkey, roast beef and cheese mix, each freshly folded into baguettes that you could either toast or ask to be tossed into the microwave.
Other items on offer include salads, quiche, an assortment of cakes (18LE to 22LE) and cupcakes.
The chicken quiche was served a little cold, but the jumble of chicken, bell peppers and onions was perfectly peppered and came in a generous slice.
Along with its wide-ranging shisha menu, Wel3a also offer a plethora of smoothies and cold drinks. The good morning smoothie is a rich and refreshing drink that combines strawberry, banana and peach, all freshly squeezed and blended to just the right amount of ice.
Wel3a also offers coffee, both hot and cold. So however you like to take your shisha, whether with coffee, a fruit blend or after a quick bite, Wel3a should surely make it to your list of shisha places to check out.
A decent meal in a good location with good weather is an unbeatable, if often unattainable, combination. Ramadan, however, moves the goalposts; the food of a traditional sohour is neither complicated nor difficult, making the whole experience dependant on many other factors.
At Kahwet Leila in Maadi’s the Platform, you get just that. The Lebanese restaurant serves a set sohour menu at 100LE per person; that package includes Ramadan drinks, manakeesh, eggs, foul and falafel, plus a selection of desserts.
The great thing about the Platform is its breezy Nile-side location, paired with its chic aesthetics. Kahwet Leila also serve very decent shisha.
Shami flat bread is served with thyme and olive oil for you to snack on until the food arrives. From the sohour menu selection we opted for a Mouajanat Cocktail, Eggs Mfarakeh, Foul with Homos, Foul with Vegetables, Labneh, Falafel and Osmanliyet Leila from the desserts.
Frustrations flared almost immediately; the flat bread was cold. Seriously, small things like make a world of a difference.
The Foul with Homos didn’t particularly stand out –neither did the Foul with Vegetables – and after a few bites we realised why; they both had the artificial taste of a canned product.
The Labneh, an excellent dish to cool your stomach after heavy and oily foods like foul, had more salty cheese than labneh, which unfortunately took away from the cooling effect.
The Eggs Mfarakeh – scrambled eggs with cut up potato cubes – was equally as lacklustre ,but the Mouajanat Cocktail was the saving grace; around a dozen pieces of different dough and pastries, filled with either cheese, spinach or meat, all fresh, warm and delicious.
The Falafel was also much better than the other dishes, made the Levantine way with homos instead of foul, and served hot and crispy.
After a brief coffee break we proceeded to the dessert, which we believe may be the best thing on their menu. The Osmanliya – konafa topped with pistachio ice cream and syrup – was the definite hit of the night, and a definite must try for any sweett0othed Cairene.
Despite the inconsistency of the quality of the food itself, Kahwet Leila’s strengths in sohour lays primarily in its location – perfect for sohour with family or friends.