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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.
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.