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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Mahana: Cheap, Tasty Pizza and Sandwiches in El Helmeya El Gedeeda
Few of us know exactly where El Helmeya El Gedeeda is. You’d have to be a Downtown resident to know the neighbouring areas such as Attaba, El Helmeya El Gedeeda, Darb El Ahmar and Abdeen. In El Helmeya El Gedeeda’s square in front of the Darb El Ahmar police station, you’ll find a massive shawerma shop on the corner called Mahana. Despite its inconspicuous outer appearance, Mahana is one of the area’s top fast food and take away shops; so we had to try it out.
This reviewer didn’t focus too much on the shop’s appearance or its staff, because in an area like El Helmeya El Gedeeda, you know that the venue’s reputation rides on the quality of food being served there. The menu only lists meat sandwiches and pizzas. No sandwich surpasses 10LE, and pizza is available in three sizes for 15LE, 23LE and 35LE respectively. Prices may vary between the different pizza types by 2LE or 3LE according to the different ingredients. Available sandwiches include meat and chicken shawerma, fajita, Alexandrian liver, burger, hot dog and shish tawouk. The menu is a bit of a disorganised mess: if you eat here, it’s assumed you’ve been coming long enough to know your favourites without checking the menu.
We heard that Mahana’s shawerma is out of this world. The shawerma sandwich is served in a tiny Kaiser roll for just 3.50LE so you may need a few more sandwiches before you’re full. The second most popular sandwich (according to our survey at the shop during our visit) is the chicken roll (7LE); a medium-sized sandwich with grilled chicken wrapped around a rich cheese filling. The sandwich itself is quite heavy to consume and a little reminiscent of a cordon bleu. The fajita (7LE) was disappointing and rather bland in comparison to the previous two orders. We really didn’t like the Alexandrian liver sandwich (3.50LE); it was unbearably spicy and we couldn’t take more than one bite. We wish someone had given us a head’s up that it would be so spicy.
You can’t eat at Mahana without trying their pizzas, which come in all standard flavours and combinations, and you can pick your own ingredients to make your own pizza. We tried the hot paprika pizza with pepperoni, chicken and shawerma, and we asked for it to be moderately spicy. You can add any cheese or meat topping for an extra 4LE. The pizza is of the same quality as large pizza chains and the prices are excellent.Mahana doesn’t offer salads or appetisers; it only offers pickles, which are quite delicious and crunchy, and French fries (2.50LE), while cans of soft drink are also available. The venue’s service is very swift, and your food will arrive hot at your seat inside the shop or out on the pavement.