From downtown cafes to swanky Zamalek bars, here are a few of our favourite places that are, unfortunately, no more.
The scene in Cairo is constantly wavering with several venues, from music platforms and pubs to hostels and art spaces shutting down, renovating, reopening, rebranding and relaunching. Some were seized or dismantled by the state in a pursuit for control, or desire to seek more investment opportunities; some were shut for abandoning government policy and regulations by, for instance, serving alcohol to minors, while others simply ran out of business. Despite the reasons, it was an unfortunate downslide for Cairo’s music and arts culture, nightlife and central hubs for intellectuals, journalists, activists or artists. Here we revisit some of the spaces that once amassed the locals for drinks, introspection, entertainment, relaxation and general social assemblies.
A characteristic café district in downtown Cairo that once gathered all walks of society, from the unemployed youth and football fans, to the retired, cultured highbrows and artists, men in suits to groups of female foreigners, El-Borsa district was gaining momentum particularly post the 25th of January revolts in 2011, while some of the cafeterias were dynamically operating for well up to 18 years, despite not having a license. Plastic tables and chairs, tea pots, shisha and fresh juice once filled the streets before a diverse and engaging row of cafeterias; all taken down, essentially raided, and quite unexpectedly by Egyptian authorities early in the morning of March the 13th – reasons were undisclosed although some would say the police dismantled the area for fostering a potential disturbance to state security and a government now determined to regulate the Downtown area.
Sangria was located on Corniche El-Nile, opposite the Conrad hotel. The magnificent sight with a massive tree growing through the building was once a hub for the swanky folk and foreigners of Cairo, a central point for after-work beers at the garden bar, family dining in their elegant, Asian-themed restaurant, and cocktail get-togethers on the first floor terrace across a spectacular Nile view. Mostly busy on Wednesday nights, and Friday nights, Sangria was famous for their friendly staff and more importantly their delicious food, shisha and alcoholic beverages, all executed to perfection. Unfortunately on the 28th of January 2011, as part of the revolts, it was set on fire and burnt down to ashes only to reopen as... Spectra.
Top-rated on Hostelworld.com in 2010 and winner of Best Hostel in Egypt for the two consecutive years of 2012 and 2013, Dina hostel was a female-owned, liberal and friendly haven located Downtown Cairo and most significantly open for protesters in Tahrir square in the months of January and February of 2011, accordingly dubbed “House of the Revolution.” At the time as activist meetings were carried, journalists were welcome to set base at the hostel when covering events, and artists were hosted to showcase their works in a monthly exhibition and lecture series which continued up until the place was shut for disclosed reasons.
“One of those little hidden treasures in Cairo,” as once stated by one of its regular customers. A Maadi-based bar and grill with an inside restaurant, a seated outdoors garden AND a bed and breakfast which they ran at the top of their building, the Snug was notoriously known for their top-notch burgers, steak, BBQ chicken and appetisers. Cheap as chips drinks, excellent breakfast, and a generally diverse, relaxed and multicultural atmosphere. Staff were superb and the door security were firm yet friendly as hell, too bad it only lasted for about a year and has been shut for almost a couple of years now.
La Bodega was around for over 40 years! It was quite a surprise to see it shut down, although it has opened a branch in Marrassi at North Coast which operates during the summer. A quality and once again cosmopolitan nightspot in the heart of Zamalek, renowned for it’s Sangrias and it’s cheap beer and wine, at 20LE to 29LE, despite it being considered an high end, attracting a crowd at any given day of the week. A section of La Bodega was left for dining, and their a la cart menu was made to impress, and most people fancied their kitchen a great deal.
What can I say about the ephemeral Sand Bar? I’d like to thank them for all the alcohol they allowed me to consume throughout my teenage years; this place was a brilliant mess! A small, dim-lit and dingy pub playing Rock music for the most part, located in Maraashley St. in Zamalek that at some point in time and mostly during the weekends, was packed with high school kids and a few speechless adults; girls making out, guys getting in fights, and surprisingly great alcohol to fuel it all up. We couldn’t find any further information on how or why it got shut down but… come on.