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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Windsor Bar: British Colonialism’s Gift to Downtown Cairo
The bar has remained almost frozen in time and if Winston Churchill were alive today, this would be one of his favourite Cairo spots. The low lighting, soft music and dark panelling all make for a relaxing atmosphere, while the décor remains true to its British heritage. The walls are adorned with old photos and antler horns obtained in hunts immemorial, while the two waiters were decked out in old-fashioned vests and bowties. The bar’s unique furniture is a definite highlight as it consists of tables and chairs made out of wooden barrels. Though the bar itself is fantastic, there were hardly any people there, and we found the largely empty room slightly disconcerting.
Throwing off our trepidation we made our way to a table by one of the large windows and a waiter quickly came over to hand us drink menus, which had an extensive selection of beers, wines and cocktails. We started off with a round of beers; the Windsor’s options include Luxor (15LE), Stella (17LE) and Heineken (22LE).
However, when we came to order cocktails we were dismayed to learn that the cocktail prices listed in the menu are sometimes very different than the prices actually charged. Though a Manhattan is priced at 37LE on the menu, our waiter told us the actual cost would be over 100LE! We decided to try a few drinks anyway and ended up with a Campari soda (32LE), a Mojito (32LE) and a White Russian (50LE). All the drinks were quite good, though the Mojito had a stronger lemon taste than the traditional minty flavour. The strength of the drinks made up for that though; the Campari soda and the Mojito were prepared at our table, so we could see precisely just how strong our drinks were.
Bar patrons can order food from the hotel restaurant’s menu, which consists of sandwiches, pastas, salads and pizzas, as well as traditional Egyptian foods such as foul. We decided to try the spaghetti Bolognese (20LE) and the vegetarian pizza (28LE). The spaghetti was delicious; the sauce had a nice little kick to it. The pizza, on the other hand, was rather average, though the dough was especially good and tasted homemade.
Despite its drawbacks Windsor Bar is definitely one of our favourite spots. The bar’s vibe is slow and it’s easy to spend hours and hours sitting and relaxing with friends. The lack of patrons detracts from the atmosphere slightly, though you won’t ever have to worry about finding a place to sit. Regardless of other customers the bar still has a timeless, classic feel that anyone looking for a quiet drink and a good time with close friends would enjoy.
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.