Sign in using your account with
Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
H501: Cocktails at the Holiday Inn Cairo Citystars
After spending the entire day in Citystars it is nice to cool down with a refreshing drink to forget about your hectic day of shopping. Adjoined to the massive mall is the Holiday Inn Hotel, which has an oddly named bar - H501 - located on its first floor. Though we have no clue what H501 stands for and our online research failed to yield results, we suspect the H stands for Holiday.
H501 is quite big and has a huge dance floor with a piano. The interior is a mix of demure yellows, pinks and reds, with couches and chairs to sit on. If your music taste is just as superficial as this reviewer’s; then you are absolutely going to love the music in this bar. A poppy r&b mix is played featuring the likes of Ke$ha and Taio Cruz, and we are pretty sure the Backstreet Boys slipped in there as well.
H501 has a pretty extensive drinks list with soft drinks starting at 20LE, aperitifs at 60LE and upwards, and whiskey and cognacs starting at 70LE. A glass of Egyptian wine will set you back 50LE, and if you really feel like celebrating; opt for a bottle of Moet & Chandon at the reasonable price of 2400LE. This reviewer prefers cute little pink drinks in funny-shaped glasses and so opted for a cocktail. For some peculiar reason, cocktails are not listed on the menu. Instead, you ask for whatever cocktail you want and the waiter will produce it for you. All alcoholic cocktails are priced at 70LE, whereas non-alcoholic cocktails are priced at 31LE.
We started off with our personal favourites: the appletini (just because the name is so funny) and a Long Island ice tea (just because we like New York and have visions of drinking one on Long Island itself while following tennis classes with an attractive instructor). Anyhow, the appletini was deliciously refreshing although a bit on the sweet side, but we enjoyed doing impressions of JD from Scrubs while drinking it. The Long Island ice tea was concocted perfectly as well.
After that, we opted for a Cosmopolitan and a strawberry Daiquiri. In the meantime, the waiter kept spoiling us with crisps, nuts and olives. The Cosmopolitan was a bit on the strong side and had too much triple sec, which left an overpowering bitter taste. However, the strawberry daiquiri was not too sweet, refreshingly cold and pleasant-tasting.
Unfortunately, we were the only guests at the time of our visit. The staff was attentive and regularly came over with a new ashtray or to fill up our complementary bowl of nuts. You can also have a bite here with starters from 58LE, mains from 71LE, pasta and pizza from 55LE and burgers at 58LE. The bar makes a nice getaway from the hectic shopping mall, but its only standout feature is its convenience.
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.