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


Arabesque: Laidback Café in Garden City

reviewed by
Sophie Anmuth
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Arabesque: Laidback Café in Garden City

Garden City and Mounira, Kasr El Aini Street is peppered with ‘ahwas’, the
biggest being Arabesque. The cafe offers a welcoming seating area inside,
although it can get quite chilly in the winter. For the summer months, it attracts
fans who like to take advantage of the open shop-front. Unlike its neighbours, Arabesque
rarely crowded, not too smoky and relatively comfortable, thanks to wicker-basket
chairs and almost-clean bayadere pillows. The setting is slightly kitsch but pleasant,
with warm colours and plants adding a nice touch.

Most of the
patrons come for the usual; it’s probably the best place on the street to enjoy
a shisha. It’s tendered to diligently by the waiters and you get the plastic
hygiene pipe, unlike the more baladi ‘ahwas’ along the street.

is occasionally able to offer unique shisha flavours, such as cappuccino, but
on most days, your options are limed to the usual apple, mint, cantaloupe, etc.
The cheapest option is the apple (7.50LE- 9.50LE including 2.5LE for the
hygienic pipe), while the most expensive is the Fakher tobacco, which is indeed
a bit tastier at 15.50LE. The waiters will gladly make mixes with your
favourites flavours, while ‘ma’assel’ – the strong unflavoured tobacco – is
available as well, for 5LE.

As far as
the drinks are concerned, the fruit juice preparations are the best thing about
Arabesque. The fruit salad cocktail (10LE) is full of flavours, brims unabashedly
over the cup and is usually decorated with an artistically carved slice of

The fruit
juices are always fresh and the glasses are often nicely decorated, as well.
But as is too often the case in Cairo, not all the juices are always available
– apart from the orange juice, which is readily on hand for a mere 5LE. Our favourite,
however, has to be the banana milkshake; it’s creamy, tasty and always comes
with plenty of fruit pieces stuck along the brim of the glass.

Coffee is
available in the form of Turkish coffee, Nespresso and ‘French coffee’ – that’s
Turkish coffee with milk – at a reasonable 6LE. A glass of sahlab goes for 7LE but,
at the time of our visit, was a little disappointing. Although it had just the
right amount of nuts and coconut, it lacked the appropriate amount of raisins
and more importantly, the consistence of the sahlab itself is light and watery.

shami is also offered at 6LE and comes with a nicely presented plate of chilli,
cumin and salt. A generous amount of chickpeas are used, but you may find that the
drink is also a little watery. Event the taste is quite bland, but that can
easily be remedied with the salt, cumin and chilli.

The clientele
is a somewhat reserved crowd. Though mostly male, there’s nothing to deter even
lone female tourists. Most of the patrons are civil servants from the state
ministries in the area, students and doctors from nearby Kasr El Aini Hospital and
expats from the various embassies in Garden City.

But it’s
not all peace and quiet. Arabesque has several TV screens, which can make the
cafe quit noisy at times. Regulars often like follow the news, watch football
games or indulge in some Bassem Youssef while relaxing with a shisha. Sounds
nice, doesn’t it?

360 Tip

Arabesque offers visitors free Wi-Fi.

Best Bit

Your Shish is tendered to diligently.

Worst Bit

The TVs gets really loud at times.

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