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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
El Muriaz: Atmospheric Downtown Baladi Bar
Baladi bar hopping is one of the most exciting things to do in Cairo at night. Forget about the expensive clubs with dress codes and minimum charges; if you want a guaranteed evening of laughter, excitement and good conversations; then look no further than Downtown Cairo. With baladi bars all over Cairo, it is sometimes difficult to decide where to go, with many venues hidden in obscure locations. One of the easiest bars to find is El Muriaz on Adly Street. Located on the corner close to Opera Square, the bar’s red exterior is easy to spot. If you can’t find it; search for the Stella sign.
Supposedly named after its original owner, El Muriaz has two floors with red and gold walls. Stella posters hang on one wall, while a large mirror hangs on the other. An LCD screen is placed on top of empty beer crates. At the time of this reviewer’s visit, the show Californication was being screened, making it all the more peculiar.
An A/C unit provides much-needed cool in the bar. Simple seats around wobbly wooden tables usually carry a predominantly male clientele, but women won’t be harassed or intimidated in this nonchalant, relaxed watering hole.
As is custom in Downtown Cairo bars, small snacks are served to you when you sit down. The cool thing about El Muriaz is that you don’t get a bowl of greasy bar nuts or chips but a plate of cucumbers, salad and potatoes. You can have a bottle of Stella beer for 11LE, Heineken for 14LE, or local brandy VAT for 15LE and a shisha for 5LE. The shisha was honestly one of the best that this reviewer has ever sampled in Cairo. The only available flavour is apple; there’s nothing fancy or exotic about this shisha, but it’s excellent.
Though it might be rude, the best thing to do here is eavesdrop on other people’s conversations The regulars are friendly and sociable, and they won’t mind if you join in the conversation.
When you’re out bar-hopping around Downtown Cairo; make sure to pay a visit to El Muriaz; it’s the perfect place to cool down in and enjoy a relaxed drink.
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.