El Fishawy: Iconic Café in Khan El Khalili
In these difficult days of Egypt’s dwindling tourism, we thought it might be the perfect time to revisit El Fishawy; the legendary Cairo café where famed Egyptian novelist, Naguib Mahfouz, reportedly penned parts of his Nobel-Prize-winning novels.
There are no long waiting lines to get a table, and gone too are the crowds that could intimidate those with mild claustrophobia.
Some of our Egyptian friends staunchly refuse to frequent this café, condemning it for having become too touristy and overrated. While it is indeed true that the legendary coffeehouse is more likely to be filled with tourists and unappreciative patrons these days – as opposed to the intellectuals and writers of Mahfouz’s lifetime – it still offers an unforgettable atmosphere of Old Cairo
Nestled on a narrow street in the capital’s bustling Khan El Khalili market, the iconic cafe is strikingly beautiful with its dark wood mashrabeya panelling and yellow ochre walls. Delicious, aromatic mint tea is served in dark blue teapots that come served on large golden trays and poured into ornate glasses, while hefty chandeliers and mirrors framed in wood hang inside; it’s nothing short of a a visual feast for photographers and aesthetes.
A steady stream of street vendors, offering anything from Islamic prayer beads to blue necklaces said to ward off the evil eye, files past those sitting in the outdoor part of the café in the snug alley lined with ornate tiles.
Complex political or religious debates should perhaps be held elsewhere; though the café isn’t as packed as it once was, the boisterous crowd would make it hard to hear much of anything anyway.
We ordered a quick tea (6LE) from the menu that also includes an array of shisha options (10LE), fruit juices (8LE) and coffees (6LE).
Feeling content, we sat back to people-watch and ended up having one of those moments when we remember what we should be aware of more often: how lucky we are to live in this great city.