Cairo is certainly a cosmopolitan place and has a long history of openness. Its large tourist industry, Coptic minority and tradition of hospitality (this last being a debatable point), mean that there is good nightlife. As a friend explained, “Anything can be done in Cairo.” Places tend to fall into several categories: coffee and shisha, bar/lounges and beer joints so the first thing to do is decide what you’re up for and then decide where you’re willing to go.
There are great places in Zamalek, including Deals and Pub 28, as well as other neighborhoods. But it’s downtown where the places with real atmosphere are found. Rooftop top places like the bar at the Odeon Palace Bar are usually a good bet if the weather is cooperative. That one is also reportedly open 24-hours but the current martial law has imposed there is a midnight citywide curfew right now. And if you’re dying for the experience, Shahrazad and Arabesque have belly dancing. However, the winner during my visit is undoubtedly Horeya, not far from Tahir Square.
Sure, there is little to drink besides Stella beer (the local beer which isn’t bad), it’s filled with cigarette smoke and it lacks the niceties such as a nice bathroom found in upscale places. And it doesn’t look like much as you can see in the photo – the graffiti says “I want to see another president before I die.” And the windows have been smashed or have bullet holes in them (I already said it’s not far from Tahir Square). But for what Horeya lacks it more than makes up for in character.
Walking in the through the crowded tables, with high ceilings and smoky yellow-colored walls, the place was absolutely bustling. A friendly waiter put down five large Stellas even know there were just two of us. We joined conversations with journalists and aid workers just back from or going to the front in eastern Libya, students from the nearby American University in Cairo, a writer, an office worker and two people who didn’t mention what they were up to. Midway through the evening, two guys danced and sang to the new “Free Egypt” giving high-fives to as many people as they could. It’s not exactly a place for a quiet drink with family but later I noticed a partition behind which groups of older Egyptian men sat drinking coffee, watching TV and no doubt going over the days gossip and politics.
At the end of the night, the bottles consumed are counted to determine the final bill and we made it back to the hotel as the mid-night martial law curfew commenced.