The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Cafe El Drawesh

Ahwa El Drawesh: Authentic Ahwa in the Heart of Khan Khalili

  • off of El Mashad El Husiny St.
  • Coffee Places
  • 10AM -- 11PM -
reviewed by
Naila Haris
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Ahwa El Drawesh: Authentic Ahwa in the Heart of Khan Khalili

If your Friday
night is torn between a hopping club or a relaxing café, a tourist attraction
or baladi getaway, an ideal solution is hidden secretly in one of the most
popular districts of Cairo.

Located behind El Hussein Mosque in Khan El Khalili, El Drawesh is a vintage ahwa hosting
local singers that draw large crowds on weekend nights. A band of oud,
tambourine, drum, and keyboard provides traditional and new folk tunes with hip
allure. This 50-year-old establishment is named after acclaimed Palestinian
poet and author Mahmoud Darwesh and is owned by Saed Mohamed Yousef.

When entering El Drawesh it feels like entering a private living space, and the
experience is very personal. It’s a small area with roughly 60 seats. During
show hours, the café is gender-segregated to the exception of couples
occasionally seated in the men’s section. The front row and centre are reserved
for the business elite of Khan El Khalili. Locals chit-chat intimately as
friends and family, and sharing shisha and jokes over warm drinks. Attendees
regularly shake, snap their fingers and sing along in their chairs. Singers
include Magda and Hussein El Souti.

This home-grown ahwa
is proud of its cairorevamp_users, as evidenced by its interior. It is inlayed with beige
ceramics, modelling the concept of huge sandstone walls. Brown arch frames
where windows once existed and brown-painted wood trimmings lace the ceiling.
El Drawesh’s logo is overlaid in the top corner of huge art prints by Kamil
Aslanger, a respected Turkish painter of traditional Arab/Orientalist scenes.
These prints depicting ahwas and musicians support the intended atmosphere.

Tips for the band are encouraged, preferably 20LE or more, but never less than
10LE. Contributing audience members are thanked publicly by microphone. Ladies,
come prepared with polished belly dancing skills. Females from the audience,
children and adults, regularly take stage to belly dance with the band and you
are invited to dance. It’s all in good fun; so keep in mind the conservative
environment. Foreigners are welcomed warmly, but uncommon. Locals are very
taken by this ahwa, so consider visiting in small groups. Photography is strictly
forbidden as announced on four Arabic-only notices on the café’s central pillar.

Café El Drawesh serves shisha and warm drinks only; coffee costs12LE and tea costs
10LE. A kiosk provides snacks at the front door. Music nights are held every Thursday and
Friday after 8PM; Friday is the best night to attend.

360 Tip

You can reach El Darwesh from el Hussein Mosque in Khan el Khalili. Walk between the mosque and the bazaar down St. El Mashhad El Hussein. Take the first right. At the corner is a beauty shop and across from that is El Malky Hotel. After that right turn, El Drawesh is the business immediately after the beauty shop, behind the mosque. Its address is unmarked.

Best Bit

Lively music in a friendly, sociable atmosphere with enthusiastic crowd.

Worst Bit

Overhead speakers are close and can be painful to sensitive ears.

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