Cairo 360’s nightlife section is probably its most polarising. It’s no surprise that we get complaints criticising us for promoting drinking and subsequent lewd and uncouth behaviour. But we don’t promote, condone or endorse; we just report. And so whatever these retractors believe, there’s no denying that Cairo’s nightlife scene is growing and evolving – although how long that will continue in the current climate is a mystery.
There are several factors to take into account when compiling a list of this nature. Everyone has their favourites and it takes something special to please the eternally unappeasable residents of Cairo. But these are the few bars, pubs and clubs that understand that a good night out is more than just alcohol.
It’s been a big year for nightlife in Heliopolis with the arrival of venues such as Cavallini and Roof Bar. But the biggest addition has undoubtedly been Amici. With the original Zamalek branch holding such esteem on the bar scene, Amici Heliopolis had an impossible task in living up to expectations. But to its credit; so far, so good.
From the brains behind Cairo Jazz Club, Alchemy has opened in 2012 to fanfare. Located in Mohandiseen, the bar-come-restaurant provides Cairenes a nice middle ground in terms of straddling the line of being a full-out club or a modest pub. This is in no way a bad thing; Alchemy has brought a vibrancy and sophistication to the rather scantily nightlife in Mohandiseen.
There’s a palpable giddiness in the air at Bar D’O. A lot of the concept bars in Cairo are derivative and Bar D’O is the same. But the difference in this case is that the Zamalek bar does it well. With so much effort put into creating the atmosphere of a New York bar, it’s easy to forget that, when it comes down to it, Bar D’O is just an excellent bar. How much the New York gimmick contributes to that is up for debate.
Yes, the bathrooms are tiny and yes, the staff’s estimation of full-capacity is far too generous, but daily entertainment in the form of DJs and live music, make Cairo Jazz Club an important venue. Why important, you say? Well, over the years, Cairo’s deep pool of musical talent has been stifled because of a lack of suitable venues and so Cairo Jazz Club is much more relevant to music than it gets credit for. There’s only so much flourishing one can do while performing at El Sawy Culturewheel.
Rumours have been strife, this year, of La Bodega’s imminent shut-down – news that has hit Cairene’s like a ton of bricks. So you might call this choice a nostalgic one. La Bodega has arguably stood still in fast-moving Cairo, but no other bar in the city can quite match the experience. Combining the best of a showy Parisian bar and the slapdash approach of a balady bar, La Bodega would be sorely missed if the rumours are indeed true.
Things started off a bit rocky for L’Aubergine’s Heliopolis branch. Initially limited to beer and wine because of a licensing issues, things have started to pick up pace, just as the nightlife in the area has. Just down the road to the glorified food-court that is Tivoli Dome, this branch combines the atmospheres of the two separate floors of the Zamalek branch and is perfect for a casual get-together.
Think of every cliché associated with a gentleman’s club. Got it? Brown leather, fireplaces, gaudy carpets, et al. The Four Seasons First Residence’ Library Bar has it all. But there’s a warmth and sincerity to it – it’s no gimmick. When it comes to cocktails, Library Bar offers well-executed classics and a menu of in-house specials. This year, the bar also added a phenomenal new tapas menu that will have you going back for more.
A Cairo nightlife veteran, Pub 28 in Zamalek still keeps a loyal following despite all the younger, fresher options popping up all over the island. Dark, smokey and usually packed, 'the pub' – as frequenters generally refer to it – is perfect for a beer and mezzas; their white cheese and tomato dip is the best in town.
Say what you want about Tamarai, but there’s a reason it’s always packed to the rim. We like to look on the bright side of things, and Tamarai’s location at theNile City Towers, its view of the Nile and the, let's say, interesting décor are far from offensive. Tamarai wouldn’t be so polarising if prices weren’t so fixed at the higher end of the scale, but you generally get what you pay for.
There’s nothing quite like the charm of Downtown Cairo. Windsor Bar reflects all the elegance and style that made Cairo such a hotspot for travellers, intellectuals and artists – back in the day. Like Downtown Cairo, the bar has started showing its age a little, but that has only given more character. With imported beers, wines and spirits, Windsor Bar remains one of the last pure bars in the city.
For more nightlife reviews and features on Cairo 360, click here.