Is Downtown Cairo what Shoreditch is to London, or indeed the Williamsburg to our Big Apple? Cairo newcomer Conor Sheils unveils the hottest hipster spots in the revival of our city's dilapidated centre...
Downtown Cairo has long been treated as to the poorer cousin of more upscale districts such as Zamalek and Maadi. However a bustling art scene has given the dilapidated district a new lease of life. The area has always been a hub for the city’s older artists and eccentrics but a fresh influx of cafés, gallery spaces and underground clubs has drawn in a new generation of creative types, artists and downright hipsters.
The latest space to drawn in the trendy set is Kafein, an achingly cool café-come-gallery space located down an alleyway off Sherif Street (look out for Mc Donalds). The café features an exotic list of teas, coffees, juices and snacks – while the customers range from starving artists to young creative movers and shakers taking a break from the busy Downtown streets. Kafein, was launched by Dina Abouelsoud and Nadia Dropkin earlier this month. Dropkin is bowled over by the shabby success story that is Cairo’s hipster quarter. She said: "It is really changing here in Downtown at the moment. People are not living here like they used to and there isn't so much commercial space in use which is allowing creative businesses to takeover and really flourish." There is a really special vibe in Downtown at the moment and we definitely want to play our part.
Across from Kafein is long-standing art staple Kunst (the German word for art, if you must know) gallery and café. Alongside the hot drinks for sale – the walls are littered wih advertisements for upcoming exhibitions, gallery shows and arts festivals to entertain the cafés cool and creative set.
But it isn’t just cafés that are flourishing in the vibrant Downtown art quarter. The Zawya project launched the capital’s first art house film venue at the legendary Odeon Cinema, just earlier this week. The group are planning to show independent and non-commercial films from the region and beyond, and, in the future, hold panel talks and discussions. Meanwhile, cultured movie buffs can also look forward to the re-launch of the Cinemathique cinema space along Adly Street, a screen also planning to showcase the sort of movie you just won’t find at the City Stars multiplex.
Underground music fans should head to Vent (formerly Arabesque) along Kasr El Nil street. Despite opening late last year the venue has already played host to a poetry slam night, a weekly jazz and blues night, live theatre and, of course, bucketloads of foot stomping underground music styles.
Just moments away from Vent is a venue, which despite its lack of an alcohol licence or indeed a poetry slam night has arguably shaped the underground clubbing scene in Cairo over the past couple of years. 100copies, located off of the capital’s bustling Talaat harb Street regularly hosts music events featuring a series of underground styles rarely featured in Cairo’s mainstream clubs and bars. Local resident Sherine Hosny claims that the influx has created a new sense of excitement on the vibrant streets of Downtown. The mood right now is really cool. It seems every day there is a new exhibition, screening or cafe. There is so much creative talent in Egypt and Downtown has become the epicentre of it all."