We sit down with founders of the infamous Bus Stop brand that once dominated the nightlife scene in Sharm El Sheikh, the Mestekawy family, to take a sneak peek at their brand new venue in New Cairo and talk Bus Stop's origins as a supermarket, reincarnation, and what to expect from the new spot.
Bus Stop is opening somewhere in the suburban sprawl of New Cairo, and we get to see it before anyone - eat your hearts out, Cairo. We can't reveal too much about the opening, but from what we can see we can safely say you will not want to miss it. We were invited by the Mestekawys - the family behind the iconic Sharm spot that, in previous years, dominated the scene in the Red Sea resort - to experience its newest incarnation, Bus Stop New Cairo, firsthand. Over drinks and some finger food, they share old stories and chat with us about their newest plans and how they became the kings of nightlife entertainment in Egypt.More than a quarter of a century has passed since the original Bus Stop opened its doors to visitors, but the place that has borne witness to some of the hottest parties in the Middle East started out as nothing more than a supermarket. Founder Adly El-Mestekawy tells us of how, in front of that supermarket in Na'ma Bay, was one of Sharm el-Sheikh’s busiest bus stations, which eventually came to be a part of what inspired the name. Only, back then, the promenade that we now know didn’t exist, and neither did anything that we millennials relate to the area. Na'ma Bay went through a transformation that extended over several years before settling on its current look - and so did Bus Stop. It has gone from a snack shack to a bar, later flourishing into a hotel (Sanafir), before turning into arguably the best club in the country.
Bus Stop the club, before turning into Pacha, saw a multitude of what must have been the best parties in Egypt at the time; dance music greats like John Kelly, and local sensations such as DJ Junior, were among the big names that played at the club. Adham El-Mestekawy (aka Ouzo) tells us, "The name Bus Stop came to my dad after watching a Marilyn Monroe movie; the poster was of Marilyn standing next to a Bus Stop sign, and back in the eighties our place was in front of a bus station so it was very fitting." House Nation, the weekly party that started in 1999, was the hottest House music event in Egypt, and it continued as a seasoned tradition well into the venue's Pacha years, when Bus Stop remained, but as a bar and sports lounge within Pacha.
Now, the tides have turned once again and it is time for Bus Stop to move on; in Cairo, it has found a desert-like surrounding reminiscent of that of its original hometown, and a delightful neighbour - in different shades of Burgundy - to keep it company and fill in the empty space left by its old neighbour, Pacha. Burgundy is an al fresco gourmet eatery that will be sharing the spot with the new Bus Stop and will feature a myriad of refined musical acts.Bus Stop New Cairo is a rather peculiar place; it is hard to place it under a category, as a venue as it has many faces and serves more than one purpose. The place looks like a sports bar, and is one, in that you can come in and enjoy your favourite game, be it football, golf, or tennis, but it is also an amalgam of other things, too, among them a music space, a restaurant, and something akin to an art gallery. Adly El-Mestekawy tells us, "We will be hosting different bands playing all kinds of music to entertain our guests, as well as hosting jam nights for a cause where we will pre-select 10 songs or so, post them on our online platforms, and invite different bands and musicians to come jam with each other. The songs will be supporting a cause - different every time - like peace or ending world hunger, or any other pressing issue." He also adds, "We installed screens dedicated to the arts; the screens will display work by different artists from around the world that we are in contact with, and our guests can place a request for any piece that they like and wish to buy."
The Mestekawys, it seems, love art in all its forms; the younger boys, Ouzo and Joe, are both artists in their own right, both already established in the art of DJing. Joe tells us, "We are trying to create a whole artistic and cultural following around the Bus Stop brand in Cairo, through the different entertainment nights, the art displays, and through different social and cultural events held at the place." He also elaborates, "We are not concerned with parties right now - to us throwing parties is the easiest thing, it will come if it is needed. When and if we decide to do it, you can be sure it will be unlike anything Cairo has ever seen before, but in the meantime, we are more concerned with developing the essence of Bus Stop New Cairo, which will be the place to go to for drinks and food, chilling with your friends, and having a good time with all kinds of entertainment."
After a couple of hours of hanging around with the Mestekawys over drinks, we all start to feel a bit peckish, and right on time – the food begins to arrive. We are surprised by the variety and simplicity of the dishes; a quinoa tabboula salad, chicken satay, konafa shrimp rolls, green curry chicken, club sandwiches, and Dragon Balls. The food is so good, none of it remains, and when the desserts arrive, we regret not leaving enough space. An apple pie tart on a pistachio dough biscuit has us in tears - tears of happiness - and a dark chocolate mousse reduction on top of a hazelnut-filled chocolate bar accompanied by a dollop of butter whipped cream and a splash of raspberry sauce quite literally blows us away. The desserts don't make it past the hour; poor babies never stood a chance.Amazed by the quality and taste of the food, we start asking around, "Who is responsible for this wonderful medley?" Maya Challita - partner and health food guru - tells us, "Our chefs are all trained in culinary art, and we consider each one of them to be an artist. Bus Stop serves traditional bar dishes, like burgers, sandwiches, and a variety of finger foods, but we also serve healthy dishes - green dishes, if you may - which are gluten-free and organic. The beef is grain fed, the chicken is organic, and all the baked items are fresh from our in-house bakery. We make our own fresh pasta and we take pride in our kitchen, which has a separate room for every type of food." Adly adds, "If gourmet food is what you're after, we have you covered; our sister venue Burgundy, is one of the best refined dining experience in town."It starts getting late, and before we can leave we need something to flush the alcohol out of our system. Maya - our saviour - orders us a green detox drink, made from cucumber, lime, and fruit juice, all fresh, made in-house, with a specialised cold press slow juicer, which is a machine that retains all of the healthy goodness that otherwise gets lost in the process of squeezing. Maya tells us, "We are serving these cold press slow juiced drinks as part of our health conscious menu, which can benefit athletes greatly. We have post and pre-workout meals and drinks that our guests can enjoy at any time."
We can't wait for the opening - we hope we're invited - so that we can get our memberships in order and start enjoying our time at this wonderful establishment; anything that is drenched in as much history as the Bus Stop brand automatically gets us buzzing. Add to it the artistic vision of the owners and the unmatched warmth and vibe that flows through the place, and we can easily tell you where our new favourite watering hole is going be - but we won't, because you either know or you don't, and we'll never tell.
Follow Bus Stop New Cairo on Instagram @busstopnewcairo and you can visit their Facebook page for more info here.
Photoshoot by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.
Photography by Ahmed Najeeb.