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Manshiyya, Alexandria, Egypt.
Spitfire: Old Time Pub in Alexandria
Having drinks in Alexandria isn’t an easy task. While bars and clubs might be few and far between, there are one or two that have been around for decades; a telltale sign that Alexandria isn’t completely void of nightlife as some might claim.
Having gained a loyal patron base and friendly reputation over the years, Spitfire is a pub named after the infamous British Spitfire; an aircraft used during WWII by the British air force. Located on Saad Zaghloul Street, the pub can be easily passed by due its drab brick exterior and small corner location.
Head through the twin doors and you’ll be swept up into that quintessential pub atmosphere in minutes. Obviously an old sailor’s pub, the floor to ceiling of this hole-in-the-wall-spot is covered in gritty, pub decor: war memorabilia, framed money, vintage risqué images, and random photographs provide plenty of visual stimulation if conversation is ever lacking in this pub.
The front room includes the perfect bar for an intimate drink with a friend or two. Six or so barstools line the area while a gigantic-sized freezer is set off to the side where the down-to-earth and good-humoured staff will have your wine or beer chilling within minutes. Lined with red black and blue tiles, the back room is filled with small, four-person tables. On a weekend night, expats and foreigners swarm in and out like it’s their second home.
Despite the rowdy atmosphere, it isn’t impossible to have an audible conversation and it’s easy to get cosy. Tiny bathroom cubicles in the back room are separate for male and female, with a mirror and toilet paper in tow; rare for a gritty pub in this country.
Available drink choices range from your typical Stella and Heineken to Egyptian liquors and wines. While an ice cold Stella costs approximately 9LE, a bottle of Cape Bay Chardonnay will set you back 105LE.
If you happen to be in Alexandria for the weekend, Spitfire is a must on the to-do list. The bar starts getting lively around 10PM or 11PM; so head out and enjoy a drink at this old-time Alexandrian pub.
Jewel of the Zamalek crown, the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino never ceases to dazzle, offering rich oriental vibes with a refined twist, especially this year with the hotel’s fancy Ramadan kheima, Som3a Basha.
A play on Khedive Ismail Pasha, who built the castle for a French Empress, the theme of the kheima is that of a castle setting with all its luxury coupled with the authentic feel of Egyptian street food served from carts and vendors.
As we walked past the Marriott Promenade Garden leading to the tent, we were struck by a surprisingly beautiful cool weather in dry July – a promising start to the night.
As we stepped inside, we were immediately taken by the elegant ambiance, stylish lanterns, beautiful castle inspired décor and smiling waiters.
We picked a table with a good view of the stage, and waited patiently for the Sohour buffet to begin (10.30PM). As we waited, we were offered the drinks Karkade (Hibiscus) and Tamr Hindy (Dates). The Karkade was bold in flavour, and tartness, and despite being slightly warm, it was refreshing. The Tamr Hindy was easy on the sugar and had a pleasing hint of bitterness that complimented it.
The live Takht show began soon after and we were transported – there was just something about the atmosphere, the spirit, the music and the night that made us forget how hungry we were.
When we did remember how hungry we were, and the buffet opened, we headed on over to check it out. All the food, except for the salads and desserts, was served in authentic street-carts with a kitschy, yet classic Egyptian feel to them.
We took a stroll down the aisle where the carts were, and had a good look at everything before we decided what to dive into. The buffet ranged from falafel and eggs, to grilled kofta and chicken. The salad selection consisted of assorted vegetables, dressings and yoghurt and though the selection provided no surprises, the food was quite flavoursome and we went back for seconds – of course.
No Ramadan sohour would be complete without shisha and we opted for Grape and Peach (30LE each). In terms of quality, both were bold and distinct, though the grape was a bit too harsh for our taste. In terms of coal maintenance, however, you’ll need to be patient – on the busier nights, the shisha attendants, are somewhat overwhelmed.
Then, as we started to feel a bit peckish, we went back for dessert and were met with a large selection of fruits and sweet Ramadan delights, our favourite of which was the Zalabya cart. You might have to time your dessert excursions, though, with the desserts quickly getting cold in the breezy weather.
Overall, the aura and the entertainment at Som3a Basha were delightful and, although not faultless, the Marriott has made good use of its space.