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Rushdy, Alexandria, Egypt.
Portuguese Club: Old-School Bar and Terrace in Alexandria
When in Alexandria, taking a walk down the many tranquil streets of the Kafr Abdou neighbourhood is always a pleasure. The Portuguese Club is possibly the neighbourhood’s only and longest living bar/terrace/pub to date. Nestled inside one of the area’s nicest villas, the Portuguese Club is a great spot for a drink and lunch either in the bar inside or on the terrace outside.
The club’s terrace is surrounded by lush ferns, trees and a kids’ play area strategically located far away from the tables, in addition to couches, a simple round bar with a flat-screen TV and a few cheesy-looking marine ornaments.
The inside area is actually huge: there’s a second bar with high chairs for seats on the left, billiard and ping-pong tables on the right for those who fancy a bit of movement, and old wooden stairs that take you up to another private room on the second floor with another billiard table.
The interior bar area is very simple with only some random Portuguese flags and Union Jack towels adorn the white-washed walls. The music playlist has a very interesting mix of different genres, most likely to leave you singing along, if not bobbing your head.
The Portuguese Club’s menu is varied and affordable: soups and mezzas range between 10LE to 50LE such as the to-die-for chicken wings with the special dip, their extra-thin sambousak, their juicy buffalo wings, crispy fries and much more;. They also have a limited but simple menu of pizzas, which have the right texture and range between 20LE and 25LE. Their main dishes include spaghetti bolognaise, burgers, and chicken and fish dishes that go up to 60LE.
The drinks menu at The Portuguese Club has your basic staples: a Heineken or Stella will cost you between 25LE and 30LE, a glass of Omar Khayyam stands at 20LE, while a bottle can cost 70LE.
The unorthodox yet smart payment method at the bar is the food check, which you pay for separately, while drinks are charged to a ‘card’. You need to buy this card first before ordering your drinks; there is one for 75LE that usually buys three drinks and one for 40LE. The cards are valid for one month; so you can keep using them till they’re finished, if you haven’t already during your stay. It might sound complicated, but once you go there once or twice it should be fine.
The Portuguese Club also offers shisha in a variety of flavours, at the open-air area. However, the club’s clientele can sometimes get a bit sketchy; every now and then you can spot a few ladies accompanying patrons, along with a few other odd clients on the side. That being said, the Portuguese Club is still worth the visit for its chilled ambience and its conveniently central location in Alexandria.
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.