Of the less crowded, greener suburbs of Cairo, Maadi is located to the south of the capital near the Nile.
Planned in 1905 by Canadian Captian Alexander J. Adams, remnants of his vision can still be seen in the wider streets and spacious villas that remain.
The story goes that Maadi got its name from the days when the Nile was more frequently used for transportation, before main streets like the Corniche were built. The boats that would come and go, from bank to bank, are called Ma’adeyas in Arabic; a single one is called Maadi, and so it came to be.
In current times the more usual route to take to get to Maadi would be either by road or by metro. The Corniche – that has the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt and the Japanese embassy – and the Autostrade are ultimately the only two streets that will lead you there, varying only in the point you choose to enter from. The metro line to Maadi has three stops; Hadayek El Maadi, Maadi and Thakanat El Maadi, all located on, the almost-but-not-quite high street, Road 9.
Maadi has several parts. Maadi El Sarayat, which is the older part of Maadi, generally begins from Port Said Street up until the railroad tracks; Degla that has a sub-area called Nerco is the area between the tracks and the Autostrad.
Lasilky Street will take you from Degla to New Maadi, which has now become the most bustling part with lots of shops and restaurants – the Maadi Grand Mall is located in this area.
The less popular spots are Thakanat El Maadi, which starts towards the end of Road 9; Zahraa El Maadi, which is in between what is overall considered Maadi and the Carrefour that is on the ring road; and Hadayek El Maadi which is behind the Corniche and feels more industrial.
Maadi today has changed a lot since its initial planning – where strict rules were set for the size of houses, the ratio of building space to garden space and even fines were imposed on those who didn’t manage their garden’s upkeep. Shutters were also required to be a specific colour.
While gardens are found in abundance throughout the area, much of these living requirements have fizzled away.
There are still countless villas to be found and most buildings aren’t built with many storeys, however modern influences are becoming apparent with high-rise buildings appearing- especially in New Maadi and the Corniche strip.
The least dense parts of Maadi are El Sarayat and Degla. While the latter has less of the old Maadi villas, both areas are filled with greenery and trees, charming little apartment buildings and spacious roads. They barely have any traffic noise.
Much of Maadi’s inhabitants are either affluent Egyptians or expatriates who are connected to the embassies, the Cairo American College (CAC), Lycée Français du Caire (LFC) and other international corporations, including Cairo’s USAID office.
Initiated by a group of women from different nationalities, the Community Services Association (CSA) caters to this community by offering a library, summer activities for children and charity Christmas bazaars as well as yoga, Pilates and spinning classes. Membership and guest visits are available to all nationalities.
Life in Maadi is known to be quiet and reesidents are very loyal to the area.
Although further away from the centre of town, Maadi is self-sufficient and once there, you will probably feel no need to leave. It’s a great place to spend the day shopping in small boutiques or have lunch, but the nightlife is not one of its strong points.
For families or married couples that feel no motivation to be part of Cairo’s relentless night scene; or for a group of friends that prefer a more relaxed routine, Maadi is a great place to live.
Significant outlets in this area are few compared to other districts, but that’s what makes them so special. Lucille’s diner on Road 9 serves a burger that was named the ‘Best Burger’ in Cairo and has been a local favourite for years; people make the trip from all over the city just to get a taste.
Across the street is Villa 55, a villa that was turned into a restaurant and bar, which has proven to be a useful hangout for youngsters as well as the older generations.
Also on Road 9 is Café Grecco (another smaller branch is available in the CSA) that has found on going success with its signature Frapée Freezes.
The British Community Association (BCA) on Port Said Road is another great spot with its spacious garden, inexpensive imported beer and wine, and authentic English food –every Friday they serve fish and chips with mushy peas on the side – though a foreign passport is required to enter.
Another notable outlet is the Thai restaurant Bua Khao, located on Road 151. Unknown to most people outside of the area, it serves excellent food in a modest, comfortable setting.
Hotels in this part of Cairo are not many. The Sofitel on the Corniche is one of the most notable while La Belle Epoque boutique hotel on Road 13 is an elegant little getaway with a pleasing gourmet restaurant.
Maadi is increasingly relevant being home to The National Egyptian Geological Museum and one of the only remaining synagogues in Egypt. The infamous Torah prison, though on the outskirts, is also considered to be part of this area.