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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Happy City: Downtown Cairo Rooftop Bar
Happy City’s rooftop is expansive with two large corner tables that are perfect for large groups. Its atmosphere lives up to its name: the rooftop is lit up with red and green holiday lights and bizarre yet whimsical decorations like stuffed parrots hang on the walls. Once you sink into the comfy chairs and take in the leisurely environment, you will probably not want to leave.
A full menu is available at Happy City: main courses include steak, kofta and shish kabab, and range from 20LE to 25LE. A variety of soup is also on offer for 5LE, while salads average at 4LE. Nothing on the menu particularly caught this reviewer’s attention, so we decided to stick to the free mezzas. With every time that this reviewer has visited the bar, the mezza selection differs; but it is always served with stale bread. However, to their credit, the bread still tastes okay and is strangely addictive. And it’s free.
Mezzas include chopped boiled potatoes with seasonings, sliced cucumbers and carrots, mish(incredibly pungent cheese), and bissara (made with split peas). The waiters replenish the mezzas as needed regardless of whether you order more drinks or not. Drinks options include wine and a variety of beers– a Stella costs 15LE. We recommend sticking to drinks, shisha and the mezzas; and you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the cheque arrives.
Shisha is only available in apple and meassel, but it is still a win at Happy City. We had to wait for a while for it to be served, as the shisha man was apparently stuck in traffic. It was worth the wait, though; as the shisha was delicious and the waiter attentively replaced the coals before we even had to ask.
Happy City is the type of bar that you can linger in for hours. The waiters are never pushy and the tables rarely seem to fill up. The crowd always seems calm and down-to-earth; patrons include everyone from endearing older tourists to businessmen. Even though there isn’t anything particularly exceptional about Happy City, we plan to return time and time again.
Located on Qasr El Nil Street, right next to Qasr El Nil Theatre in Downtown Cairo, VENT offers local culture enthusiasts an alternative to the better established bars and clubs in Cairo by labelling itself as both a bar and cultural space.
Taking over the venue that was once Arabesque, VENT is relatively easy to spot, with the sign of the previous bar remaining in place.
Offering a variety of culture events, from live music, film screenings, to site-specific plays, an entrance fee of 50LE is required on all nights except on Thursday when the fee gets bumped up to 150LE. Having recently celebrated a six-month anniversary, VENT is everything an ‘underground’ space should be.
The interior is characterised by lighting choice, utilising a stark contrast between the dark and intense lights during upbeat DJ performances, and more mellow and relaxing lighting during live musician performances. Contrasting the poster-decorated walls are old tile clad floors, emblematic of Downtown’s rich heritage.
A spacious bar takes up most of the facing wall once you enter, offering a range of drinks, with a Heineken going for 30LE and soft drinks for 15LE. There is also a decent-sized menu that includes a choice of mezza platters (40LE-65LE), nachos (30LE), sandwiches (30LE-50LE) and pastas (45LE).
We opted for a Club Sandwich (40LE) which was thick and juicy, stacked with fresh ingredients and served with deliciously thick-cut French fries.
Their nachos are a good on-the-go choice, though they could do with more generous dressings as we found the dish to be slightly dry as opposed to gooey and luscious.
However, VENT is not particularly about the food, but much rather about the show. A monthly schedule provides information on upcoming events and while VENT promises a range of cultural doings, music has for the most part taken over.
With live musicians such as PanSTARSS, Aya Metwalli and the Invisible Hands taking to the stage, as have quite a few local and international DJs, there have also been the more obscure of music nights such as the one featuring Maxime Denuc; a sound producer from France.
Though the music line-ups and their variety have given music buffs a reason to leave their house in search of new sounds, VENT's hosting of non-music events is somewhat lacking - a stark reality of Cairo's cultural landscape.
All in all, Vent has come as an uplifting change from the monotonous, musically bland nightlife scene in Cairo, securing a safe haven for those uninterested in pretentious attitudes, repetitive crowds and the 'thud, thud, thud' atmosphere of the city's most frequented bars.