Rokna: Straightforward Shisha Café in Zamalek
140 26th of July St.
Sat-Wed 10AM-12AM Thurs-Fri 10AM-1AM
Cafés in Cairo have a tendency to blur the lines of the very concept of café. A shisha place should be just that; a place to puff away whilst enjoying a piece of cake and a coffee. The small, colourful Rokna café on 26th July Street in Zamalek offers a straightforward, no-frills shisha experience. Set below road level, there are a few colourful tables and chairs in front of the tiny, glass fronted venue. Inside, the walls are also colourful and the space feels both comfortable and homely with several cushions, books and board games dotted about.
We opted to sit outside in order to enjoy one of their brightly coloured shishas. The shisha menu is vast and ranges from 15LE for standard fruit flavours, to 30LE for their Starbuzz tobacco. There are also ready-mixed fruit selections for 22LE. We went for an intriguing ‘Nordic Star’ shisha (22LE), which combines three secret ingredients, and an ice blizzard hose (7LE), as compared to a plastic one (4LE).
Arriving swiftly at our table, we were unsure of what to expect and puffed away suspiciously and found we were delighted with the results. The mysterious flavours – orange, cinnamon and berry – worked excellently together, whilst the blizzard ice hose softened the smoke with the real ice pops placed inside the mouthpiece.
Focusing mainly on beverages, their drinks are aplenty, with everything from flavoured teas and coffees, to fresh juices, cocktails and smoothies. A white hot chocolate (18LE) caught our eye, as did a cappuccino (14LE). Brewed within seconds, the white hot chocolate tasted just like, well, white chocolate; deliciously sweet and milky. The cappuccino had a good amount of foamy froth on the top and the coffee beans were both strong and bitter.
Their savoury food menu is limited to sandwiches and crackers, while their list of desserts is much larger. During the time of our visit, however, it transpired that there were only two desserts available; chocolate cake or cheese cake. We opted for a giant slice of chocolate cake (18LE) which, unfortunately, looked much better than it tasted. The sponge was dry and slightly stale and even the drizzle of chocolate sauce over the top couldn’t save it. The thin creamy layer in the middle was also disappointingly tasteless.
The staff at Rokna are welcoming, helpful and friendly, which adds to the relaxed atmosphere of the café. However, the busy road-side setting and lack of food does little to help Rokna stand out from the abundance of shisha places in Zamalek.