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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Kings Bar: Hotel Bar with Baladi Vibes in Downtown Cairo
The borsa area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas in Downtown Cairo. It's clean with even pavements, the buildings are well-preserved and the area is rarely crowded. Exactly how we like it. One of the landmark buildings in this area is the Cosmopolitan Hotel. It was designed by Baehler, the architect of the La Bodega and Aperitivo building in Zamalek.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is one of those former Cairo landmarks once famous for their grandeur and glory. Nowadays, not much of that grandeur remains. Kings Bar is located on the ground floor right after the reception. The reception is actually pretty nice and the library next to the bar looks quite tempting for an afternoon read.
At the time of this reviewer’s visit (weeks before Christmas) the hotel was wrapped up in tacky, shiny Christmas decor including a Santa doll in the beak of an eagle. If we were children we'd probably have recurring nightmares about Santa being devoured by an eagle. Speaking of nightmares, the Kings Bar's interior is a little disturbing with its brown yellowish decor and guns hanging on the wall next to extremely dark paintings in desperate need of cleaning.
Kings Bar is easily comparable to a baladi bar but then located in a hotel, which means it’s not as crowded but prices are still very reasonable. Unfortunately, they only offer beer, whiskey and vodka - all local. A bottle of Heineken, served with an ice-cold glass, costs only 15LE.
Excited about the low prices, we decided to go all out and order a vodka and apple. Never in this town have we received less vodka than in this bar. It was a measly drip and not worth the 12LE we had to pay for it. The apple juice was served on the side in a Juhayna carton, which we squeezed out into our drink through the straw. Because we are people with a great sense of humour, we saw the fun in all of this and actually enjoyed our stay. As soon as we sat down we were presented with a bowl of termis. The more drinks we ordered; the more food arrived at the table such as cucumbers and cheese.
However, we didn’t enjoy our trip to the toilet. The staff seems to believe that flooding the toilet with water and then not drying it up will keep it clean for more time. If this were an actual baladi bar, a toilet like this would have been great, but we expected more from a hotel.
If you’re in the area and crave a cheap, low-key and hassle-free drink, then Kings Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel is a perfect spot. However, if you want something more sophisticated, or something more baladi, then lots of other options are available in the area.
Cairo isn’t a city that takes special occasions lightly and there are few bigger occasions in Egypt than Ramadan. But despite the hullabaloo of it all, Wahawi Ramadan Lounge brings a much-needed serenity to proceedings.
Following its success last year, the Ramadan kheima – which sits pretty along the Nile on the breezy rooftop of Le Pacha 1901 in Zamalek – has once again emerged as a perfect alternative to the big, brash rationales of the traditional Ramadan tents.
Attracting a much younger crowd than many of the other Ramadan tents around the city, Wahawi doesn’t rely on the gimmickry of nostalgia and the increasingly elusive pursuit of a ‘quintessential Ramadan experience’.
Instead, Wahawi keeps things unfussy and laidback – because there’s nothing worse than being force-fed the sounds of an unenthusiastic takht group, as can be found at this time of the year across the city.
The setup and decor plays as big a part as any other element; use of the traditional khayameya print is kept to tasteful touches here and there, the music is subtle and the dimmed lighting is perfect – it really is the little things that count.
Similarly to last year’s setup, tables with couches for large parties line the edges of the space, with small, more intimate tables taking up the centre. Each seating arrangement is appropriately positioned to give patrons a pleasing type of seclusion and cosiness without sacrificing its overall amiable hustle.
Each of the larger tables is afforded a flat screen TV – with World Cup matches being shown – and a Playstation console, as well as a range of different board and card games.
In terms of the food, frequenters of Le Pacha will be pleased to find the venue’s usual selection of dishes with the addition of a few extras across both Egyptian and Lebanese cuisines.
On a breezy evening, our party of four headed to Wahawi and we left with bulging bellies and pleased palates. Of the cold mezze options, the cheese with zaatar (24LE) was excellent, while the cheese-stuffed safayeh (30.90LE) – a Lebanese version of dumplings – were equally as delicious.
Beyond the picking-dishes, if you will, there are also full blown meals more suitable for fetar – which Wahawi also offers. And, of course, what Ramadan kheima would be complete without shisha, which is served and attended to alertly by staff.
Yes, Ramadan is big, loud and gaudy; but Wahawi streamlines the sohour experience, making it a great place to unwind.