Sign in using your account with
Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
El Karnak: Intense Oriental Sweets & Puddings in Downtown Cairo
Cairenes love sweets, and consequently there are a plethora of famous bakeries and dessert venues in Downtown Cairo. Your average Cairene frequents the usual places like El Abd in order to satisfy his/her insatiable sweet tooth, yet the locals and true dessert aficionados opt for the longer journey to El Karnak to devour a secret called ‘the bomb’.
El Karnak is located on Magles El Shaab Street across from Souk El Etneen, and a narrow alleyway separates the storefront from a small seating area. Three or four tables furnish the extremely bare area, but no one visits El Karnak for its décor. Rather, any passerby will immediately recognize this local favourite by the masses slowly pushing into the small storefront with receipts in hand.
The majority of El Karnak’s patrons make the trip through Downtown’s labyrinth of backstreets for one reason: El Karnak’s infamous qonbola, or ‘the bomb’ in English. A healthy helping of konafa serves as a base upon which a medley of bananas, apples, and basbousa soak in strawberry and mango juice, honey, and milk cream. Finally, a dollop of custard sits upon this culinary delight, which, despite its local popularity, remains one of Downtown’s best-kept secrets. For just 10LE, this original dessert is served in a hexagonal deep-dish take-out container and has enough sugar to trigger early onset diabetes. It serves as both a challenge for those who wish to tackle the deep dish alone and as a great communal dessert to be shared among friends.
Though the bomb is El Karnak’s most sought-after dessert, you can also find yogurt (1LE), fruit salad (8LE), and konafa in milk (4.50LE). If you want to take some tasty treats home, El Karnak also sells kilos of basbousa (12LE) and konafa (12LE). For another 10LE, you can add custard cream to your kilo of desired sweets. This reviewer sampled the rice pudding (3LE) and would recommend it as a side dish, but by no means a substitute for the bomb. El Karnak’s menu is only offered in Arabic; so be sure that someone in your group can read Arabic if you want to experiment with different sweets.
Although El Karnak may not be the prettiest venue in Cairo, it is certainly worth visiting to satisfy your sweet tooth. Its signature dessert, the bomb, is a rite of passage for anyone who frequents or lives in the area.
With Brew & Chew satisfying the cravings of Maadi residents, and Dip n Dip spreading their fantastic desserts in New Cairo, Nasr City and 6 of October City, the sweet-toothed of Zamalek can be forgiven for feeling a little neglected – that is until now. Chocolate by name, chocolaty by nature, Joe’s Chocolate Bar on Taha Hussein Street could be the answer to every chocaholic’s dreams.
As a venue, Joe’s Chocolate Bar is divided into two floors; the top floor has nothing remarkable about it but allows smoking, while the ground floor is where the ‘chocolate is. Besides the melted chocolate-like decoration on the wall (which is installed upside down, so instead looks like chocolate waves) the calm lighting and wood walls create a relaxing and cosy ambiance to the place.
The items on the menu are limited and nothing grabbed our attention, but we opted for the Molten Chocolate Cake (47LE), Triple Chocolate Crepe (41LE) and their new special item – as the waiter was so keen to mention – Oreo Waffle (49LE).
The molten chocolate cake had a bold chocolate flavour and a very moist texture; the gooey centre had a fantastic pudding-like consistency, which shows that it was cooked to perfection and, overall, the dessert had a spot-on sweetness. On the other hand, we would have preferred that the ice cream was served separately, because the hot temperature of cake melted it quickly and made the top of the cake rather soggy.
The triple chocolate crepe was just as good, meanwhile; coming as three thin, light and fluffy triangular servings, each one was filled with a generous amount of melted milk chocolate, and drizzled with white, milk, and dark chocolate. We also asked for fruit (10LE) on the side which consists of mini cubes of kiwi, bananas, and strawberries, and it was surprisingly fresh even though it’s not strawberry season yet.
As for the Oreo waffle, we expected nothing more than a waffle with crushed Oreo on top, but, impressively, the waffle itself had an actual layer of Oreo in the middle. Despite the waffles needing a little more milk chocolate on top and being a bit chewy, they were largely soft with a slightly crispy exterior, and the flavour of the Oreo popped in every single bite.
Joe’s Chocolate Bar definitely impressed with their well-executed desserts and big flavours, but we felt that the variety on the menu is too safe and a bit limited for a dessert specialist. We’d very happily come back for the molten chocolate cake, though.