Cairo Nightlife

3anil: Decked Out Sohour Tent by the Nile
Published On: 11/08/2011

Undoubtedly one of the hippest sohour spots this Ramadan; 3anil has taken everything it has learned in the past seven years to form the perfect Nile-side Ramadan tent. Located on the Imperial Boat in Zamalek and decorated in pink and white with a chandelier of reflective baubles hanging from the centre of the ceiling, 3anil is regularly filled to the brim with a select few of Cairo’s stylishly dressed, shisha-smoking youth who sit for hours on the brown accented sofas socializing and, in the case of those with VIP seats, battling on their private Playstations. If you’ve ever been a patron of the nearby Wel3a Café, then you’ll see a few familiar faces refreshing your coals as Wel3a and 3anil have partnered up this season to provide the best shisha experience possible. At 15LE each, the shisha’s flavours are not what this reviewer would call exotic, but they’re strong and the service is excellent; even on a busy night. The rest of the wait staff have been recruited from the Imperial Boat’s Purple to serve on its roof at 3anil until the lounge opens again at the end of Ramadan. In addition to two pages of à-la-carte sohour selections including a delicious chicken fatta (68LE) and an assortment of mezzas ranging in price from 10LE to 20LE, 3anil offers two set sohour menus at 100LE and 130LE. The only difference between the two is your choice of either the mixed grill platter or a smaller kofta dish. Both come with a set of delicious mezzas such as tasty hummus with basterma and creamy motabel as well as a few leafy salads with tomatoes and croutons. The selections from the mixed grill are also quite delicious, and the chicken and beef kebabs were tender and juicy. Dessert choices are limited to rice pudding or an assortment of oriental sweets with the more expensive set menu, while the cheaper menu only offers oriental sweets. Neither option is particularly appetising, but if your sweet tooth is still killing you, Nestle Egypt’s ice cream factory is serving on board and you can finish up with a cup of ice cream instead (at extra cost). 3anil’s only flaw is the inadequate amount of table room available for all the food that they serve you. This reviewer sat through half of the meal with a plate in her lap until a couple of dishes of taameya and yogurt were finished and moved off the low table. We were also sad to experience a shortage of Ramadan drinks throughout the evening. When we did finally settle on the only choice available (karkadeh), our drinks didn’t arrive until the end of the meal, and that was only after requesting them several times. Expect the crowd on board 3anil to drift away by around 2AM, leaving the deck either lonely or peaceful depending on your interpretation.

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Amici: Cairo’s New Cocktail Bar
Published On: 30/11/2010

Too often, we become giddy with excitement at the mention of a new restaurant or bar in Cairo, only to have our hopes dashed when we visit the supposed new gem. With full confidence, we can say that Cairo’s new cocktail bar Amici is worth every bit of the hype. Amici is anything but your average Cairo bar. For those of us who take our cocktails seriously, we often stick to beer or wine when we go out, knowing better than to trust most of Cairo’s bartenders with the task of mixing a proper drink. At Amici, you’d be foolish not to try one of the well-crafted drinks from their extensive menu. Included on the list are all the classic cocktails, standard beer and wine and a creative list of drinks prepared by Amici’s resident mixologist. For a celebratory night out at Amici, a list of shots (40LE) is on offer including kamikaze and sex on the pyramids. And if the menu doesn’t include your favourite cocktail, order your own concoction and they’ll accommodate your request. The same goes for non-alcoholic beverages. For something more exciting than juice or Red Bull, a large number of their cocktails can be made without spirits.   Drinks are made to the customer’s satisfaction: should you ever have a complaint, it will be addressed quickly and completely. Yet, there is little to complain about here at Amici, where they serve the best martini (45LE) that this reviewer has ever had in Cairo. Specifications like dry and dirty are executed to a tee and the drink is chilled to perfection. Amici’s pina colada (40LE) is creamy and fruity, without the sickeningly sweet flavour often associated with tropical drinks. The berry champagne punch, requested without champagne, vodka or Chambord, was deliciously tart, sparkling lemonade accented with fresh strawberries. While we couldn’t stop pouring over Amici’s menu, learning about the origins of some of the world’s most famous cocktails, we took a brief glance at the food menu to discover that Amici has an exciting bistro menu including dishes such as steamed mussels and steaks topped with foie gras– for over 200LE. Don’t think for a moment that Amici is pretentious though; they also have simpler items such as pasta and pizza, and until they get their kitchen fully up and running, this is all they have. The scene at Amici is decidedly chilled out, which we welcome with open arms here in Cairo. The decor is very European minimalist, yet it doesn’t feel stark thanks to comfortable seats and warm lighting. The crowd is young and trendy, but not self-consciously so like at many hot spots around town. Even better, this bar doesn’t feel the need to assault its customers with blaring dance music. For this, we cannot thank Amici enough.

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The Zamalek Residence Hotel: Summery Sohour
Published On: 07/09/2010

Once dominated by summer tourists from the Gulf, the newly renovated Safir Hotel has come into its own, moving beyond another Cairo hotel to a Zamalek evening hotspot. Its location on the Nile and its understated elegance make it an approachable yet special place to spend your Ramadan nights. Now known as the Zamalek Residence Hotel, and recently taken over by Hilton, its stately five star, lobby and international clientele suggest exorbitant restaurant prices and inaccessible venues. Surprisingly, this is not the case at all; the hotel staff are friendly and welcoming, and fetar and sohour options are more affordable than some average Cairo restaurants. Fetar at the hotel is served in Palm’s Coffee Shop. Don’t be fooled by the name; this coffee shop is actually a bright, contemporary restaurant with gourmet food and slick service on offer. An open buffet for 155LE is offered for fetar, with gourmet offerings of Egyptian, oriental and international cuisine to tempt a diverse clientele. Open buffets at fetar are normally a nightmare with huge queues of people loading up multiple plates and leaving nothing for unfortunate stragglers. Fortunately, the restaurant’s small size and the hotel’s low-profile status make for a relaxed sunset meal rather than a fight for survival. However, the real gem at the hotel is the poolside sohour, served every evening from 11PM onwards. Nothing says a summer Ramadan like an evening by the pool. Choose from two set menus priced at 75LE and 100LE and featuring sohour staples like omelettes and foul, in addition to a selection of cold Lebanese mezzas, Ramadan juices and oriental desserts.   The 100LE-set menu provides enough food to satisfy two people until fetar the following day: an army of small dishes of hummus, baba ghanough, yogurt and taboulah served with bread would be enough, but then they are mercilessly followed by a huge omelette, foul, fruit salad and a dessert plate loaded with basbousa, konafa and atayef. The salads are average and the bread is nothing special, as is so often the case with 'Lebanese' appetisers in Egypt. The Egyptian elements of the menu were much more delicious: a perfectly cooked omelette and well-spiced foul were winners, as were all of the desserts, especially the soft, sweet basbousa. The service is noticeably lacking; waiters lagged behind on our orders and had to be prompted once or twice, but the location and scenic Nile-side setting generates enough good PR to keep us coming back. Arrive at 11PM on the dot to make the most of sohour at the Zamalek Nile Residence. The more time you give yourself to digest and relax by the pool; the better your experience.

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3anil: Delightful Sohour on the Nile
Published On: 25/08/2010

After six successful years, 3anil is back this Ramadan with new ideas, new food, a new theme and a new location. This year, the 3anil Ramadan tent is located on the rooftop of Imperial Boat Deck, right next to Mojo’s, and has quite a dark oriental theme to it that includes large dim metal oriental lanterns and light stands that are enclosed by beige cloth. 3anil’s sponsors and co-sponsors have done an excellent job with their advertising: booths and corporate logos are heavily featured throughout the tent. As you walk in, you will find two booths: the first is sponsored by Ice-Watch, and displays a collection of watches in many colours and sizes, starting at the price of 700LE upwards. The second booth belongs to designer Amina K., and boasts a diverse display of her recently launched sunglasses collection. The glasses come in a variety of different shapes and are priced at around 600LE. As for the tables, tire company Bridgestone took part in constructing tables that consist of huge truck tires with a glass tabletop. Some foosball tables are also used as serving tables, while a PlayStation lounge can be reserved for you and your friends to enjoy some intense Winning Eleven PlayStation games in. The sohour menu comes with a 100LE-minimum charge, which excludes shisha and waffles served by Nuntee’s and offered on a separate menu. Our mezzas of tehina, tomeya and mixed cheese and tomatoes, for 16LE, were very tasty, but the vine leaves (20LE) and yoghurt salad (16LE) were surprisingly stale. The grilled halloumi cheese and crunchy sambousak, which included a tasty mixture of cheese and herbs, were for 20LE. The shisha (20LE) wasn’t bad at all. Their cherries and peach flavors tasted exactly the way we wanted them to, and like the rest of the very fast and friendly service, the shisha service was great, although there were no distinctive flavours available. Once we had satisfied our appetite for mezzas, we discovered that Nuntee’s waffles are the best waffles we’ve tried so far. The waffles are served hot with a scrumptious selection of toppings and syrups ranging from strawberry and white chocolate to M&M’s and peanut butter. The tent's music is very chilled and unique with Tamarai resident DJ Lyon playing a mix of oriental Arabic and English oldies with a little twist of his own throughout the evening. If you'd like a relaxed weekday sohour by the Nile but work is stopping you, do not hesitate to bring along your laptop; sponsor TE Data will provide you with free Wi-Fi.

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Le Deck Ramadan Tent: Fetar on a Floating Dock
Published On: 21/08/2010

Every Ramadan, there are always a few popular and trendy tents in Cairo that attract the largest crowds for fetar or sohour. This year, many of the big-name party organisers and hotels have put a lot of effort into making these tents a success. Sofitel El Gezira’s floating dock restaurant Le Deck offers great cuisine and shisha, a prime view of the Nile and a trendy Ramadan ambiance. If you’re heading for fetar at Le Deck, it’s best to make reservations as soon as possible. Le Deck offers easy online booking through Tazkarty. However, we were surprised to find that, after making last-minute reservations and assuming the place was probably packed, it was quite empty; only three other tables were reserved. Le Deck’s tent certainly didn’t go with the traditional kheyameya design. Set right in the middle of the deck, the tent’s fabric is a swirl of red and blue colours as well as star, crescent and calligraphy designs that lend the restaurant a Ramadan feel. Colourful star-shaped lanterns dangle from the rafters, adding to the light and colours of the tent. Comfortable chairs and couches surround the tent and border the deck for a great breeze, but they’re not necessarily convenient for people afflicted with seasickness. Le Deck offers two set menus for fetar: one for 190LE and the other for 200LE, and the only difference is that the one for 200LE includes foul. For appetisers, traditional Lebanese and Egyptian mezzas are served alongside the mixed lessan asfour (ourzo) soup, such as hummus, baba ghanoug, mixed white cheese and tomatoes, and tehina with bread on the side. The waiters are extremely friendly and always bring some humour to the table whenever they pass by your table. The main courses are two tagines of macaroni in béchamel sauce and sliced liver with green pepper, followed by a delicious, huge mixed-grill platter, which included kebab, kofta and grilled chicken. The food portions are definitely filling and more than enough. As for dessert, we were served a small plate of oriental sweets and although we were already full; we had to try it. The restaurant’s zalabya is one of the best that we’ve ever tried; it was very soft and not too syrupy. After enjoying hot tea with mint by the Nile, one of the tent’s sponsors, Nestle offered us free servings of their delicious Mega and KitKat ice creams but with that, you also have to try Starbuzz’s amazing premium cocktail shisha for 35LE. So if you plan on going to Le Deck during Ramadan, try both their fetars and sohours; it's worth going back to more than once to enjoy their scrumptious food and the laid-back ambiance.  

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Mojo’s: Zamalek Open-Air Sohour
Published On: 18/08/2010

Ramadan brings with it a season of long, festive nights with friends, sipping tea, perhaps enjoying a shisha and a reprieve from the oppressive heat of August; while snacking on nearly anything we can get our hands on. Zamalek nightspot Mojo’s has done away with its dramatic red curtains of the colder months, and has drawn back the canvases to make the most of its open-air, top-deck location on the Imperial Boat. The dark wooden furniture and walls strike a dramatic tone with some sparse lantern decorations and a view of the city skyline, but the interior design seems to be aiming for simplicity. As with many popular nightspots in Ramadan, Mojo has altered its hours and menu to cater to the post-fetar crowd of the younger generations. The menu has all our sohour bases covered, with a foul section featuring several varieties of the bean; from foul served with olive oil to medammes. Foul choices are in the 15LE-range and come served with thin, slightly dry shami bread. In addition, the menu lists a standard mezza section with hummus, sambousak and baba ghanoug as well as tehina, calamari and more. It’s hard not to be sceptical when items such as foul, taameya and eggs are served up in the kitchens of upmarket hangouts. Besides the koshary, foul and molokheya created in Cairo’s home kitchens, the tastiest renditions of traditional sohour fare is usually found at modest street stalls. Sadly, our scepticism was justified. We weren’t terribly encouraged by the fact that very few patrons were caught eating the menu’s imitation street-style cuisine, and our own attempt left an unfinished plate. The menu also has a series of omelettes; (20LE to 40LE) designed to tide you over for the coming day, and filled with basterma, cheeses or vegetables. The menu also includes a page-long sandwich section offering clubs and brown bread options (20LE to 50LE).   Sahlab is listed in the dessert section along with karkadeh, tamr hindi, kharoub and fresh juices. Earning top marks for decor and peaceful ambiance, but lagging a little with its cuisine, Mojo’s nonetheless makes an enjoyable place to pass the sohour hours.

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Zamalek Residence Cairo:  Escapism in the Heart of the City
Published On: 08/07/2010

Cushioned, wooden lounge chairs, nautical striped towels, a kidney-shaped pool and the view of the Nile – idyllic? Just about. The recently renovated Zamalek Residence Cairo, most commonly known and referred to as the Safir Hotel, is the perfect place to unwind after a hectic week stuck in the city with no beach in sight. Granted, the pool is small and warm – surprisingly – but it still does the trick and gives one the illusion that they’ve been away on vacation without ever leaving town. At 150LE for a day’s use (up from 100LE just a few months ago) it’s one of the more moderate options in the city, and you can swim to your hearts’ content from 9AM until sunset.   Just go up to the Health Centre on the Mezzanine, where they’ll take your payment then escort you down to the pool, give you some towels and set up your chaise-lounges.   The rest of the day is up to you. As mentioned, the pool isn’t very large, nor is it deep; but it usually isn’t busy either and does make for a nice dip and a relaxing unwind. The pool feels very exclusive, especially in the evening when there are fewer people competing for their place in the sun. Speaking of sun, keep in mind the Safir is quite a tall structure, as are many of the neighbouring buildings; so the sun makes its appearance in the morning, then leaves after about 2PM.   If you want a golden tan; go early. If you’re escaping the heat, visit in the afternoon to catch a nice soothing breeze off the Nile. As for food, you can order from the hotel’s café, the Nile Breeze; but there’s an annoying 100LE-minimum charge and the food is pricey; so no light snacking here. More substantial options on offer include breakfast, soups, sandwiches, starters, mains and desserts. We ordered the pan-fried, marinated duck breast with cauliflower hash, sautéed spinach, cinnamon-poached apples, and orange sauce (79LE), which was disappointingly average.  The duck breast was good but gamey and came with lots of fatty skin. The sauce was delicious but the cauliflower hash tasted odd and very peppery.   We also tried the baked American cheesecake with vanilla sauce and seasonal fruits (32LE), which was less than fresh and bore a heavily buttered crust that was just too much.   The service is courteous but slow and information is fuzzy – calling before we went gleaned different information than when we inquired in person. The chaise-lounges are slightly hard and the change rooms (equipped with two showers, lockers, and three toilets) are not up to par with the hotel’s four-star status, which will soon become five-stars; Safir has signed a management deal with Hilton, expected to begin sometime in October 2010. In the evenings, the lights come up and there’s live oriental music that makes for a beautiful atmosphere and a Nile view.   The deck is open until 1AM, with music playing until 12AM.

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Le Deck: At Sea in the City
Published On: 09/05/2010

As summer is upon us, we city folk dream fondly of the sea, don stylishly nautical apparel and crave the open waters of the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. Le Deck, the floating-dock restaurant lounge at the Sofitel Gezira Hotel, is the perfect place for some Nile-side, laid-back indulgence. As a bonus for those in search of some waterfront relaxation, Le Deck does not draw the crowds and noise of other Nile-side venues. Rather, it is open and airy, and the fans keep you cool and happy as you sample appetisers, order a fresh juice or tuck into a dessert. You must pass through the lobby and out of the back of the hotel to reach the restaurant, which provides a quiet sanctuary. Gently floating on the Nile and anchored to the banks of the Sofitel garden, the venue is a world away from the glitz and glam of Buddha Bar, though the occasional strobe light flash can be spotted from floors above. Le Deck is truly lovely, with large white chairs and ornate oriental lanterns creating an exotic feel without overwhelming guests with over-the-top decor. The venue gently rocks to and fro as boats pass by, and diners can spot the occasional felucca sparkling away in the distance at night. Suitable for both larger groups and intimate gatherings, the atmosphere can fit a romantic evening or social night out with friends.   The menu boasts predominately oriental favourites and offers a wide range of warm and cold mezzas. The hummus is rich and smooth, the salad crisp and the freshest of fresh. The grilled options are sensational: the shish tawook is excellently cooked and accompanied by sweet vegetables and crisp potato wedges; while the kofta arrives hot off the grill and is spiced to perfection.  While the food is nothing ground-breaking– you'll find no fusion sensation or exotic cuisine here– it is reliable and tasty. However, be prepared for a minimum of up to 200LE per person to apply when booking for groups of ten or more. While it’s easy to forget as you lounge in the open air, you are still at one of Cairo's upper-echelon hotels, and luxury comes at a price. For smaller parties, expect to pay around 300LE for a moderate meal for two. Le Deck is a perfect summer night getaway when you are looking for a relaxing alternative to both a wild night out on the town and the café scene. Most importantly, it captures a rare waterside peace while not being overly pretentious or tourist-packed. 

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Asia Bar: Predictable Menu, Surprising Dessert
Published On: 09/04/2010

In a city full of venues with self-explanatory names, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with an establishment called Asia Bar. You can even go out on a limb and guess what their interior décor will be like. This reviewer originally thought Asia Bar would be serving only sushi and drinks; but after close examination of the menu, it turns out that the restaurant offers a wide variation of cuisine from various parts of Asia. Surprise, surprise! Located above Applebee’s on the Blue Nile Boat in Zamalek, the place is split into a restaurant and a bar/lounge area where you can wait to be seated. The décor is very modern with hints of Asian design in its panel ceiling and cutlery. Surrounded by ambient colours, black velvet chairs are placed in the centre of the room, with comfy white couches on either side. The place oozes a comfortable vibe that invites a person to relax, dig in and enjoy the food. The menu showcases cuisine from China, Japan, Thailand and India, with (predictable) staples such as spring rolls, and sweet and sour chicken. The crispy chilli beef is a firm favourite; it arrives on a sizzling platter and has just the right amount of spices that don’t overpower the beef flavour. Another recommended main course is the excellent pad thai, while a combination of their spring rolls and shrimp konafa is a filling but very greasy substitute for a main course. It’s somewhat confusing to find chocolate fondant on the Asian dessert menu; but confusion-aside, it might be the best chocolate fondant in Cairo. Yes, it could quite possibly beat Crave’s chocolate fondant. The staff will happily custom-make the fondant into a massive portion for large dinner parties, much to everyone’s delight. For more moderate parties, a meal for two people with drinks averages around 500LE. On the other side of the restaurant, the bar offers the standard wines and cocktails, although their Tsunami Disaster cocktail is legendary with its combination of rum, gin, vodka and tequila. The restaurant is usually jam-packed and reservations are a must, whereas the bar area attracts a smaller crowd of older, calmer patrons. Our only complaint is Asia Bar’s music: something has to be done about their play-list. What can only be described as elevator music plays incessantly through the night, butchering classics as only a cheap hotel singer in a piano bar could. One thing you can predict about Asia bar is that you get your money’s worth in fast service, with quality food in a classy setting; Piano-bar music notwithstanding.

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Mojo’s: The New Hot Spot in Town
Published On: 31/03/2010

Only open for a few months, the Imperial Boat’s Mojo’s provides a chic new nightspot to the Zamalek scene. In direct contrast to the boat’s other somewhat notorious nightspot Purple, the out-door “Sequoia-esque” atmosphere has been captured in this glass-enclosed venue overlooking the Nile. Word on the street is that Mojo’s is now the “it” birthday place in town which can be a major turn off to many. On any given weekend countless sparkling cakes and birthday choruses are to be seen and heard, as the shiny new party-goers strive to be, well, seen and heard, so make sure you reserve well in advance. The shisha is excellent, and the guava flavour in particular is lush as are the smooth watermelon and crispy lemon, and the coal is plentiful and frequently refreshed on weekdays. If the place is bustling it’s a little harder to flag down the shisha guy, however. The service is good and suited to the relaxed atmosphere, not hovering and then disappearing ala the usual Cairo fashion. The view is stellar and its location on board the Imperial shelters it from the elements, making it appealing year round. There’s an air of seclusion to the place and it is somehow separated from Cairo’s traffic and noise with its wooden floors, outdoor deck feel and gauzy red curtains, which stand out in contrast to the all white seating. The chairs are cushioned and the lamps cast a warm glow, creating the feeling of a summer evening. Mojo’s isn’t overly crowded on weekdays, but come the weekend it’s packed and smoky. The menu has a delectable range of appetisers with the Frito Scampi a delicate twist on batter fried shrimp with tangy tartar dip. The ravioli is good with an array of tasty fillings while the pizza, always a luck of the draw order, has the right amount of sauce to cheese, and the addictive fries come golden-brown. The food, coffee and shisha are all well above average and worth the weekend minimum charge of 100LE though the 80LE on weekdays for a quick stop by is a bit much. Mojo’s is providing a much-needed spot in Zamalek that’s an upgraded but more relaxed night spot, cleverly combining shisha, good food, drink and Sequoia's ambiance.  

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Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum: Fitting Tribute to One of Egypt's Most Influential Artists

Although Cairo-born sculptor, Mahmoud Mukhtar, passed away some eighty years ago, both his memory and his work continue to live on and prosper in the Mahmoud Mukhtar Museum located in Zamalek close to Cairo Opera House. Before entering the home of Mukhtar's exquisite collection, there's a beautiful