Baladi bars are the staple of nightlife in Downtown Cairo, and there’s no shortage of options. Some are easy to spot, while others are hidden in deep and dark dead-end alleys with only one way out. On our travels, we’ve encountered zillions of belly dancers, had harrowing arguments with some of the bar staff and even ended up on a cabaret stage or two. Yes, there’s an awful lot of fun to be had out there. Feast your eyes on our list of the top ten baladi bars.
There is no doubt; this is one of our favourite baladi bar /cabarets in town. The kitsch décor ignites images of ‘1001 Nights’, and the strange addition of Christmas lights on the ceiling, the cheery belly dancers and the loudest live band we’ve ever heard guarantee an interesting night out. Sherazade has it all, and we’ve never had any hassle with the bill. The friendly patrons tell of the days when the likes of Fifi Abdou graced the stage. Nowadays you might find one or two of the Cairo 360 crew showing up the dancers. Sherazade is not to be missed and is a safe bet for a night of fun.
Though the name sounds a bit like a Chinese takeaway place, this is actually one of downtown’s nicest venues to chill out at. The open-air rooftop has a nice view of Downtown Cairo and serves delicious mezzes and cheap beer. What more do you want? Odeon Palace might be popular for its rooftop, but Happy City is a serious competitor. The best thing about Happy City is that it’s open 24 hours. It’s perfect if you feel like a nightcap and a little snack before heading off to bed after clubbing. If you stay long enough you just might enjoy the sunrise over Cairo too.
It’s a little difficult to find, but Stella Bar is definitely worth searching for. Inside is a haven of beer and eclectic clientele. Stella bar is very popular among leftist intellectuals and international students who once upon a time arrived here with hopes of changing the world but now spend most of their time here. Add the occasional artist or writer, a bunch of locals, and a sprinkling of expats to the mix and you have a bustling and lively place to grab a beer. Stella Bar guarantees a night of good drinking and even better conversations.
Horreya is a long time favorite amongst locals, tourists, expats and students. It’s busy every day of the week from the late afternoon until the wee hours of the morning. With its white mirror covered walls, blinding lights, high ceilings and bad acoustics Horreya isn’t exactly the cosiest of places. However, it is one of the best places in town to knock down a beer, and you will always meet lots of new people. The toilet is in abysmal state and the staff doesn’t put customer service at the forefront of their priorities, but 10LE for a bottle of Stella is enough to keep you from complaining.
Named after its once upon a time French owner Maurice, El Muriaz has been in business for decades. The walls are covered in red and gold paint and the LCD television is supported by beer crates. Patrons are just as old as the bar itself and even though the air-con is on full blast it can still get pretty hot in there. But who cares when the Stella is 11LE and you can enjoy a perfect shisha for 5LE.
The owners of Gemaica could have done with Google Translate way back when; as you may have guessed, it is indeed named after the sunny Caribbean island. If you want to make new friends and have conversations with down town locals then this is the place to be; Gemaica is home to a loyal group of regulars. However you are warmly greeted and treated as one of gang from the moment you step in.
New Arizona is one of the smaller baladi bars on our list; it has only a few tables and a tiny bar. There is no air-con and it can get pretty stuff in the summer. Don’t be surprised to find a cat jumping on your lap every once in a while, and vendors usually pass by as with their stock. Despite that, patrons are friendly and pretty much leave you alone, as does the staff. It’s generally a hassle-free, no-frills bar where a beer will set you back no more than 12LE.
Bussy Cat is the bar with the most conspicuous name on our list. This might be the first time ever we are actually grateful for the perpetual mix up of P’s and B’s. Bussy Cat has an entrance hidden in an ahwa and once inside you are warmly welcomed by the bussy cats who work here. The beers come easy, the shisha is cheap and the locals are dodgy. All the ingredients for a fun night out on the town, we say.
Palmyra boasts some of the ‘friendliest’ and most ‘enthusiastic’ belly dancers in town. The half-naked Pharaoh-style mural behind the stage sets the scene pretty well, and you’re bound to have an awesome time in this straight-up cabaret. You’ll need to keep your whits about you when paying; keep count of your drinks, and don’t bother with food. You’ll need money to throw at the belly dancers anyway.
Our reviewer wasn’t terribly happy with this place, but Miami has made it into the top ten for its rich history. The bar has been around for decades, and it once upon a time hosted Egyptian Queen of belly dancing Samia Gamal, who used to perform with fellow superstar Tahiya Karioka, and enjoyed nights out with Farid El Atrash in this very place. Those were the days…
So there you have it Cairo; a guide to help you through many a night out in Downtown.