Cairo Reviews

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Lujo's Fresh Junk: Fresh Gourmet Fast-Food in Zamalek
Published On: 19/11/2014

Every now and then, you're body demands the strangest of cravings. It wants fast food, it wants new fast food that's different to all the fast food that you've been having, and it wants it right now. This sensation may hit you at home or at the office, but what's certain is all the effort you're willing to exert is eating the food. Enter Lujo's Fresh Junk; a joint in Zamalek that pulls together all the kinds of fast food onto one menu, and presenting them in a new way. The restaurant is rather small; the indoor area consists only of a counter over which you place your order. There are a few bar stools, but we don't recommend occupying them since you'd be sitting face to face with the cashier - awkward. The outside area has a simple wooden table with two chairs. We don't recommend sitting here either as you'll be sharing your food with the cats over the ambiance of the next door workshop's loud music. After a quick glance through the menu we opted for the Wasabi Shrimp Tempura Wrap (38LE) and a Mushroom Truffle Pizza (44LE). Additionally, we opted for Zucchini Fries (10LE) with Mayo Pesto Dip (6LE). Our food was served, not so shortly after, on wooden slabs that resemble chopping boards, while the Zucchini Fries were served in a small metal bucket. The Wasabi Shrimp Tempura wrap consisted of fried shrimp tempura topped with pickled sesame cucumbers, shallots and Wasabi tartar sauce on a bed of mixed greens. The wasabi was unfortunately missing from the mix, but that was the only let down in an otherwise great sandwich. The flavours were in perfect harmony and the shrimp remained crispy despite the toppings. Similarly, the Mushroom Truffle pizza was delicious. The truffle oil and fresh mushrooms worked well with the arugula and balsamic vinegar. The pizza had a nice, thin consistency and a good ratio of toppings. We did, however, find the mushrooms a little scarce. The Zucchini Fries had a nice crispy golden layer coating i, and a good consistency all around, which isn't easy since zucchini cooks very fast. We felt like we ordered the wrong dip however, since Pesto Mayo was a little too heavy. Finally, we opted for a Peanut Butter Cookie (9LE), which, unfortunately, let down what was an otherwise enjoyable meal; it was mall, too moist and barely tastes like peanut butter at all. Lujo's is perfect for takeaway and ordering from home, especially when with a group. While the prices are higher than your average fast food, the gourmet touches elevate the menu.

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Safar Khan Art Gallery: Abdel Salam Eid Exhibition
Published On: 19/11/2014

Over the years, Safar Khan Art Gallery in Zamalek has featured exhibitions by some of the top artists on the contemporary visual arts scene like Hussein Fawzy, Farouk Hosny and Ahmed Nawar to name a few. Art in Egypt as a community has become more and more inclusive, but the gallery has been able to guarantee a certain quality, and even prestige, of visual art thanks to their selections. Abdel Salam Eid was born in 1943 in Alexandria and is a professor of Photography in the Fine Arts faculty at Alexandria University. While he has received several national and international accolades for his work in photography, this particular exhibition featured the use of many unusual mediums and materials – rope and plastic forks are two of the most peculiar. The masterpiece of the exhibition is placed close to the entrance, to the right, and also serves as the subject of the exhibition's promotional poster. Combining photography, mosaics, and 3D sculptures of birds in the centre, the piece captures the artist's methodology quite aptly. But Eid's interesting approach doesn't end with the unusual materials he employs, as he uses them in unusual ways, too. In another, much larger, piece, the mosaic element sees Eid use the tiles face down, revealing the rough, corrugated backside. The tiles were sliced to tiny pieces and then reassembled to form interlocking geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic motifs. To contrast the ceramic mosaic tiles, he uses blue glass towards the top which makes the entire piece pop with colour. One can't help but be impressed by Eid's vision in utilising simple, domestic materials available in our. The use of rope in particular demands a closer look; while it looks haphazard, closer inspection reveals well studied interlocking patterns. He achieves a strange harmony between different textures like pieces of cloth, wood and even metal parts to form a complete composition. Aside from collages and different textures, the Ecoline paintings – similar to watercolours, but denser and closer to coloured ink with much more vibrant colours – also particularly eye-catching. The paintings reveal many forms of intersecting colours open to interpretation. Whether you're a fan of contemporary art with the patience to observe and find an explanation in a painting or not, Abdel Salah Eid's unique approach has made for an endlessly fascinating collection.

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Tove Lo: Queen of the Clouds
Published On: 18/11/2014

Singer-songwriter, Tove Nilsson, first made her way to everyone's ears with debut single, '(Habits) Stay High,' and now the twenty-seven year-old Swede, who was discovered by the iconic Max Martin, has just released her first studio album. Sweden has a fine history of producing unique pop; Abba aside, Swedish acts have successfully infiltrated UK and US charts in the past and continue to do so. The Cardigans were all the rage in the 90s and more recent examples include the Knife, the Concretes and Lykke Li who have all had varying success outside their homeland in the last decade. It's easy, then, to say that expectations are somewhat high for Ms Lo; but she meets them with aplomb. Queen of the Clouds is divided into three parts – 'The Sex', 'The Love' and 'The Pain' – with each narrating a different stage of a relationship.  The first section carries an edgy theme of carefree love and lust, riddle with risqué lyrics. 'My Gun' is unapologetically racy, 'I Like 'Em Young' is as daring as its title implies and 'Talking Body' is equally as unrepentant in its approach to sex. 'Time Bomb' opens the second chapter of the story and sets a different theme as the relationship teeters between love and incompatibility, with a piano intro leading to a fast-paced chorus. With tracks like 'Not on Drugs', the album finds a venn diagram-like space that is best described as Taylor Swift and Katy Perry after they've knocked back a dozen cans of Red Bull, with its endearingly basic-pop lyrics yet explosive, disco-inspired beats. The love affair crashes and burns in the third part of the album as Nilsson croons, "And then there's no good way to end things/ 'Cause it's ending, y'know?" in 'Thousand Miles' which features a more laid back, monotonic beat that allows her vocals to take centre stage. The album's lead single 'Habits (Stay High)' features in the last part and, alongside 'This Time Around', sees Lo at her angst-ridden best. For the many that were eager to find what else Tove Lo had in her musical armoury, this will not disappoint; the bustling brunette meets the expectations of the bold, raw take on pop that her early hype promised. Queen of the Clouds mixes fun, dance-friendlybeats, with grand choruses and edgy, soulful lyrics in a neat little, edible package.

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Trash: Underdog Story Set in the Slums of Rio
Published On: 17/11/2014

Based on a 2010 novel of the same name – written by the English young-adult fiction writer Andy Mulligan – Trash is best described as a feel-good story that carries a smimilar spirit to Oscar-winning drama, Slumdog Millionaire; similarly, it's a colorful and a slightly strained drama of adolescence and poverty. Set in Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil, Trash follows the story of Raphael Fernandez (Tevez), Gardo (Luis) and Rato (Weinstein); three fourteen year-old Brazilian boys who live in a lakeside favela and who earn their pennies by sorting trash at the nearby dumping ground. During one of their routine scavenger hunts, Raphael comes across an expensive looking wallet that, just as luck would have it, is full of cash.  While no one is looking, Raphael quickly pockets the cash. However, when crooked police officer, Federico (Mello), turns up desperately looking for the wallet, Raphael realises that there is more to his find than it meets the eye. As it happens, the wallet, which also contained a flip-book photo of a little girl with coded numbers on the back and a mysterious looking key, is directly linked to a wealthy and seemingly corrupt politician who is currently running for mayor. Realising that they are in way over their heads, the boys reach out to Father Julliard (Sheen) and aid-worker, Olivia (Mara), for help, all the while doing everything they possibly can to evade the hands of the corrupt police force who will do everything they can to get their hands on the wallet.  Trash, adapted to the screen by Richard Curtis, spends most of its running time in Portuguese and does a decent job in portraying the poverty hiding beneath the colourful streets of Rio; the chase scenes through the bustling streets and tight alleyways are particularly enjoyable. However, although pleasing to the eye, the material feels a little forced, a little too pretty around the edges and yes, a bit too Hollywood; if you were expecting more of a harsher look inside the life of favelas, perhaps you will need to revisit movies such as City of God or Elite Squad for a better insight.   Nonetheless, Trash does manage to keep things relatively upbeat and entertaining mainly because of the infectious energy and dynamism brought on by the three leads, who, despite their limited acting experience, hold the entire film together. 

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Thomas Patisserie: Sweets, Cakes & Desserts in New Cairo
Published On: 17/11/2014

Having already made its name in the Egyptian dessert market, Thomas Patisserie is by no means, an unfamiliar brand. Thomas' latest branch in New Cairo, however, is still new and pristine and so, being the adamant sweet-tooths we are, we decided to hit it up for a much-needed sugar fix. Located in a rather odd part of New Cairo, in the Medical Park,  Thomas is relatively spacious yet lacks any seating areas; it's the type of patisserie you go to when you want to take your desserts to-go. The interior appearance of the venue unabashedly leans to the sleek, dark, black spectrum of decor; an obvious attempt at obtaining a chic and posh design. The whole vibe, however, is a little too much and ends up looking a little tacky rather than the elegant. The place offers a variety of desserts, divided into the two obvious types; Western and Middle- Eastern/ Oriental treats. Taking a glance at all the desserts offered at the time of our visit, we couldn't help but notice that the gateaux and cakes looked much better-stocked and more alluring than their Oriental counterparts. The Oriental desserts on display, however, included lots of the classics like Basbousa (40LE-60LE/ Kilo), Konafa, and Baklava amongst others. You can also order a selection of the three for 130LE/Kilo. We migrated to the better lit display of all the gateaux, tarts and cakes one could ever think of. From round, English-type, breakfast-friendly cakes (70LE) to full-on, occasion-orientated cakes (120LE-150 LE for a small one and 170LE-210LE for a large one), the cakes came in all sizes with all kinds of flavours and toppings.  Moreover, the infamous French delicacies, Macaroons, were also available in a multitude of flavours (175LE/ kilo). Gateaux, both normal-sized (9LE-16LE/piece) and soiree-sized (100LE/kilo), were also available and we opted for a few pieces to indulge in. Other savoury baked goods can also be found at Thomas, including pates, croissants and mini pizzas (5.50LE-8LE/ piece). Gourmet chocolates (175LE/ Kilo) are also offered and would make lovely gifts for any occasion. Our gateaux were well-wrapped in a box and were pleasing to the eye. The classic, sugar-topped, millefeuille was light, yet decadent, with the pastry tasting exceptionally fresh.  The mango tarte was also quite delightful and light. The chocolate gateaux, however, despite tasting alright seemed to lack a certain oomph; chocolate desserts should never taste average. All in all, Thomas offers quite a lovely selection of desserts for all kinds of occasions. Despite its wishy-washy design and quite peculiar location, it still did have adequate service, with super friendly staff. The desserts themselves were not ground-breaking in the taste department, but were still of notable quality.

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A Most Wanted Man: Slow-Burning, Old-Fashioned Espionage Thriller
Published On: 16/11/2014

Based on John le Carre's espionage novel of the same name, A Most Wanted Man marks the very last full-scale performance for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, whose captivating and absorbing role as a cautious and weary spy-operative, not only adds to his already-glowing repertoire, but also serves to be a genuinely sad reminder of just how much he will be missed from the big screen.    Directed by Anton Corbijn, A Most Wanted Man is set in Hamburg, Germany – the city revealed to have been the main hub for the 9/11 terrorists – where an underground anti-terrorist squad is working to prevent similar events. Run by jaded agent, Gunther (Hoffman), the team is soon put to work when a known and wanted Chechen refugee, Issa Karpov (Dobrygin) – labelled as an escaped jihadist – is picked up by their radar. Gunter and his team of dedicated infiltrators – including surveillance operator Max (Bruhl) and Gunther's right-hand, Erna (Hoss) – soon begin to pursue the young militant whose mission in Germany is still relatively unclear. As it turns out, Issa is in the country to withdraw a large sum of money left to him by his criminal father. In order to get to the banker, Mr. Tommy Brue (Dafoe), and begin to live a life free of guilt, he will need the help of human-rights lawyer, Annabel (McAdams). However, Gunther and his team believe that they could use Issa – and his money – to catch a much bigger fish, but the involvement of sharp and shady CIA agent, Martha Sullivan (Wright), and the meddling fingers of the German police, soon begin to threaten and endanger his mission.  Cold, murky and grey, A Most Wanted Man offers a heavy atmosphere that serves as the perfect platform foran old-fashioned espionage-thriller, much like le Carre's 1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The pacing is slow and testing, there is a lot of talk and not a lot of action; those hoping to find more of that Bourne-like oomph and vivacity may end up walking away from this a little drained and disappointed. Serving as the main pillar and the quietly gripping force of the film, Hoffman – as a man haunted by his troubling past and someone who is clearly carrying the weight of the world and all of its ugliness on his shoulders – is spellbinding.  Despite having to sport a peculiar German accent, Hoffman is able to lead and ultimately, stand out from, the rest of the cast.

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Dumb and Dumber To: Harry & Lloyd Reunite For Goofier Sequel
Published On: 16/11/2014

It was exactly twenty years ago that likeably goofy duo, Harry and Lloyd, won the hearts of many in the incredibly daft but entertaining comedy, Dumb and Dumber. Having cemented their place in Hollywood cult history, the friends return in Dumb and Dumber To; a follow-up that's relatively entertaining, but nowhere near as memorable as its adored original. Following the heartbreak of his unrequited love for Mary Swanson, Lloyd (Carrey) has spent the last twenty years in a mental hospital, completely withdrawn and in an unresponsive state. Best pal Harry (Daniels) has continued to visit him, but it's not till he brings bad news that Lloyd snaps back into life – that news being that Harry is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. After finding dead-ends every which way that they turn, they soon discover a long lost letter from former lover, Fraida Felcher (Turner), informing Harry that she was pregnant with his child, whom, as they soon find out, has been given up for an adoption. Excited that they might be able to find that donor after all, the reckless twosome soon hit the road in order to find Harry's daughter, Fanny Felcher (Melvin), and quite possibly, the kidney that will keep Harry alive.   Fans of the original 1994 release will probably be excited most by the sequel, which is once again directed by the Farrelly brothers and scripted by the same writing team. Both Carrey and Daniels seem happy to reprise their roles as the brainless but lovable best-friends and throw themselves into it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, the material isn't all that fresh and the script fails to take into account that the world of Hollywood comedy in 1994 is miles away from what it is now. Subsequently, the whole thing feels far too slapstick and, though that was the general M.O. for the first film, it feels dated – and quite frankly, crude – in 2014.

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Mikado: Express Sushi in Maadi
Published On: 16/11/2014

There's an Italian restaurant in Maadi that we've been fans of for quite some time. In our last review,  Il Mulino boasted a breezy, comfortable outdoor area, combined with authentic Italian dishes that valiantly tries to stay clear of localisation. So when we heard it opened up an express sushi centre by the name of Mikado on its premises, frankly, we were a little alarmed. The concept of Mikado is very much an easy and unfussy express approach to sushi; you needn't bother with a menu or even be that aware of the many different types of the Japanese delicacy. Mikado make ready packaged boxes of 10, 20, and 40 pieces at affordable prices. You can specify if you want them roll based or Nigiri, but you don't have much control besides that. Curious to see what the selection would be like, as well as just how affordable they are, we opted for an All Rolls 40 Piece (169LE) platter; the 10 piece goes for 59LE and the 20 pieces for 99LE. The large plastic wrapped platter comes with two soy sauce and two teriyaki sauce dips, as well as the traditional ginger and wasabi. As for the rolls themselves, there were 12 rolls of crab, salmon and shrimp Hosomaki collectively, as well as 28 of their special Uramaki rolls broken down into four Philly Rolls, four Mikado Rolls, four Caterpillar Rolls, four Rainbow Rolls, four California Rolls, four Tamago Rolls and four Green Rolls. The special Uramaki rolls featured some of the more creative options like the Tamago - a Japaense omelette roll - and the Mikado Roll featuring salmon, mushrooms, cream cheese and green caviar. Unfortunately, while the sushi was certainly cheaper than practically any other restaurant in Cairo, the quality is somewhat reflected by that. Everything tasted a little stale, and nothing is particularly bursting with flavour - except for possibly the teriyaki sauce. Sushi, as mentioned before, is a delicacy and the express approach employed by Mikado somewhat diminishes and corrupts the very core of what is an already problematic and difficult food in Cairo. All in all, there are much better, if more expensive, sushi option around the capital and it isn't the kind of food too skimp on when it comes to cost. Unless you happen to trip and fall into Mikado, Il Mulino's very decent Italian food is a much better and safer option.

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Calvin Harris: Motion
Published On: 15/11/2014

Scottish DJ, producer and occasional singer, Calvin Harris, has returned with fourth studio album, proving exactly why he is currently the highest paid DJ around, with the album featuring an array of chart-topping artists. The countdown to the release of Motion began in October of last year when 'Under Control', featuring English synth-pop duo, Hurts, and Swedish DJ, Alesso, was released as a teaser of what was to come.  In March of 2014, 'Summer' took over the airwaves; featuring Harris' own vocals, it went on to become one of the songs of the summer. A divisive character in music, Harris' latest efforts sees him precariously straddle the line of commercial pop and EDM. Harris' choice of collaborators is, as usual, quite strategic; he chooses the best of the it-artists of the moment, '. John Newman features on 'Blame', Gwen Stefani croons on 'Together', Ellie Golding adds her unique vocals to 'Outside' and Big Sean raps to 'Open Wide'; all, if only for the sake of recognisable names, are incredibly chart-friendly. Taking a leap of faith and delving into new, albeit still quite shallow, waters, Harris collaborates with American indie-pop trio,  HAIM, on 'Pray to God'. It's by no means a remarkable song, but HAIM's vocals do add the element of surprise to an otherwise humdrum song. 'Love Now' sees another minor diversion by Harris, collaborating with little-known British trio, All About She, and delivers what is perhaps the most organic piece of music on the album; the group's fusion of r&b, house and garage are a perfect fit for Harris' electro-house inclinations. 'Faith' sees Harris attempting to sing for the second time on the album and the result is not disappointing, but the song as a whole is rather redundant; we hear the same beatwork that focuses that inevitably burst into a catchy chorus. 'Slow Acid' is possibly the only track that strays away from the commercial House sound of most of the album, with Harris leaning on trance; it's dark and almost nostalgic for the 90s. All in all, Motion is an unchanging menu of Harris' usual, clean-cut, anthem-inspired music that seems to be radio-ready and, in all honesty, almost characterless. His collaborations, in themselves, are always intriguing and his scope of collaborators impressive, but amidst the novelty of it all, he loses his own identity as a producer and DJ in sea of increasing generics that will continue to see detractors level the 'unauthentic commercialism' card at him. 

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AUC Bookstore: Extensively Stocked Bookshop in Downtown Cairo
Published On: 14/11/2014

By far, probably the most prestigious, stylish and well-stocked English language bookshop in Cairo is located inside the Downtown campus of the American University in Cairo;  the exquisite two-storey English bookstore is open to anyone, not just students and faculty members. Just provide some ID at the entrance and the security guard will direct you through the university grounds to the  shop.  Though heavily guarded and shielded from view from the outside, the university grounds feature an enchanting green garden that is incredibly tranquil and carefully tended to by the gardeners. The quiet, green area is dotted with  wooden seating, so you can sit and relax in a place of beauty and peace.  Inside the building, the silence is everywhere, and that must be respected by all visiting. The book prices are on the expensive side, however; Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, for example, costs 100LE, while a beautiful and large hardback copy of the Qur'an (in English) costs 330LE. Though a range of different books can be found, a strong emphasis is placed on subjects corresponding to fields of study at AUC.  Some of the clearly labelled sections within this immaculately organised vicinity include: Learning Arabic, Poetry and Drama and Classics, which contain books by William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens. A tiny area also focuses on colourful children's books which are very beautifully bound and carefully presented; there are some wonderful pop-up books, too, which would make wonderful gifts.  Another area has a small selection of stationary with journals, notebooks and sketchbooks; one A4 sketchbook costs 40LE and one, A5 leather bound journal costs 100LE. Should you wish to take a moment to browse through some books, there are a couple of wooden chairs and tables available in the far side of the book shop and there will always be somebody available should you have any queries or concerns.

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Cairo Weekend Guide: EL-FIT Grand Finale, Panorama of the European Film, Student DJ & More!

Hello Cairo! With plenty of live music, parties, exhibitions and festivals taking place this weekend, there's no shortage of options for what's shaping up to be a very busy weekend. The Panorama of the European Film in full swing at, with screenings at Downtown Cairo's Zawya and Cinema Galaxy in Man