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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Boss Bar: All Cheese and No Fun
Once a tacky but fun karaoke place called Golden Bells with peculiar looking women lounging in corners, this bar was recently given a face lift with flat-screen TVs and low lighting. It’s hard to pinpoint why Boss Bar fails to be cool, especially since the management is making a visible effort to replicate the Jazz Club formula with a busy weekly schedule including live band shows during the week and DJ’s on weekends.
We were willing to give Boss Bar the benefit of the doubt by checking it out on a Friday night with supposedly funky DJ music.
The first thing that we noticed was the front-door policy- or rather lack thereof. Call us old-fashioned, but watching a rowdy crowd get, erm, rowdier, can be a turn-off.
The other thing we noticed was that the management couldn’t seem to handle such a large crowd that night- the bartenders at the central bar were practically screaming with panic when more than four people clamored for their attention at the same time. To top it all, they ran out of ice. And it wasn’t even midnight.
We could have disregarded all this if we had been able to enjoy ourselves on the minuscule dance floor, which is really just a tiny stage in the corner. Dancing there was like being part of one big, happy meat sandwich, and we don’t mean that in a nice way. The acoustic system definitely couldn’t handle the beats of the DJ’s tunes, and we couldn’t handle the lack of dancing space.
We’re sure that Boss Bar has its charm as a low-key watering hole on a quiet weekday night, but so is Pub 55 on Road Nine, and that doesn’t have the strange atmosphere found here.
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.