Wahawi: Carefree, Nile-Side Sohour in Zamalek
Amongst the twelve or so Ramadan tents that have been erected across Cairo’s top venues, Wahawi stands as one of the most modest and unfussy in delivering a Ramadan experience. This approach trickles throughout the setting itself; located atop Le Pacha 1901 in Zamalek, Wahawi takes advantage of the cleanly and minimally designed space of rooftop restaurant, Ontop, by keeping the usual Ramadan aesthetics to a tasteful level.
With large tables lining the edge of the rectangular space – and a few smaller tables in a more central area towards the back – Wahawi’s use of space is practical, comfortable and neat. Even during the busier periods, the space feels open and uncluttered. So many Ramadan kheimas try to recreate a distinct nightlife feel, and subsequently fail to capture the essence of traditional Egyptian sohour nights. Wahawi, on the other hand, ditches this new breed of clichés and keeps things simple, offering Cairenes well-executed food, entertainment options – that we’ll get to later – and good service, courtesy of a practiced team of jolly waiters.
Wahawi’s menu combines Le Pacha 1901’s usual offerings with a host of both Lebanese and Egyptian Ramadan dishes – everything from stuffed vine leaves to grilled meats. From the appetisers section, we ordered the classics.
A large plate of foul (18.90LE) – made with butter as recommended by staff – acted as the centrepiece of a meal that also included falafel (19.90LE), safayeh (29.90LE), hommos (21.90LE) and fattoush salad (21.90LE).
On first glance, prices seem high, but as with the foul, each dish is generous in portion. While the foul lacked any kind of flair, it was cooked and seasoned perfectly and maintained a good, consistent texture. An order of falafel comes with five robust pieces, each coated in sesame seeds – a necessary element that provides crunch and texture to what are quite heavy pieces. The safayeh with cheese was quite the surprise; the golden shell makes way for a soft centre that rips apart at every bite.
Though a little short in garlic flavour, the hommos tasted clean, fresh and smooth, while the fattoush – also served in a gargantuan portion – tasted fresh, despite a little too much dressing causing parts of it to become soggy and a little sharp on the tongue.
The real fun of Wahawi, however, is plethora of games that await you. From backgammon to Monopoly Deal to Playstation 3 set-ups at several tables, it’s actually very easy to lose track of time – as was the case at the time of our visit, where a gender vs. gender game of Pictionary continued long into the wee hours of the morning. Of course, this is not the only place that has harnessed the awesome power of board games, but the difference here is that it all fits seamlessly into the whole tone of Wahawi. Even the music finds a middle ground between traditional Egyptian tunes and the type of lounge music that an evening by the Nile demands.
There are no gimmicks here; Wahawi keeps sohour simple by shifting the focus away from food and onto creating a calm and easy Ramadan experience. Just don’t walk in singing “Wahawi ya wahawi” – it’s not funny.