With Valentine's Day just around the corner, we've curated the ultimate romantic adventure right in the heart of the city.
Think beyond the Valentine's cliches, set menus, and done and dusted dining destinations. Instead grab your beau (or bae) and take a stroll into the city's heart. Uncover the buildings and bars, alleyways, cafes, restaurants, and hideaways that have set the scene for plenty of intrigue and adventure - both real and imagined. And discover why Downtown Cairo is experience something of a romantic renaissance...
Downtown's EISH + MALH is an all-day dining destination that has developed something of a cult following in recent years purely through word of mouth (which is always a good sign). Their breakfasts are brilliant (some say the best in town) and their lunch and dinner menu is sweet, honest, and sincere. But best of all, they love their local artisan food products fueled by a passion for seasonal produce. And they take their holidays - like Valentine’s - very seriously. So you can expect a special menu for the occasion full of delights made with lots of literal love by their eccentric owners, Dina & Nadia, who - when not in the kitchen elbow deep in new recipes - will often be found mingling among the loyal (and hungry) clientele. We implore you to round off your meal with a sensual scoop of Nadia's own artisanal homemade ice-cream in an array of sexy flavors including the lush Lavender. Or the not so sexy sounding but we can assure you still very delicious ol'aas… yes, they have ol'aas ice-cream! We won't share anymore lest we ruin the surprise...
When you're done devouring all that deliciousness, right next door (or technically right opposite) you will find the delightful and newly opened ABnG, a veritable treasure trove of local trinkets, funky furnishings, and and quirky accessories carefully curated by the achingly fashionable owners. So pop by this pop up for a quick Valentine's gift pick up. Although rummaging through all their goodies with your date is the fun part.
In fact that entire alleyway on which Eish+Malh and ABnG are situated - known as THE KODAK PASSAGEWAY and recently renovated by Ismaelia For Real Estate - is like a little futuristic garden inspired paradise for strolling lovers.
Eish+Malh, The Kodak Passageway, and ABnG are all on 20 Adly Street, in front of the synagogue.
Not as naughty as it sounds, but we love it anyway. Often-overlooked (and unfairly so) the little bistro aptly called Le Bistro is a dinner and drinks two-in-one delight. After the Laila (Morad) take-over, Le Bistro got a pop-art makeover. So a date there could mean Instagram gold! We’d even recommend faking a date there for our insta-story game alone. Take a seat under their pink neon lights, order their signature liver to share, and talk of art and poetry.
Sated and satisfied, hold hands and wander down that same street which is overflowing with little antique shops. Our recent finds include a pink-mirrored, two-tier cigarette box from the 50s for only EGP 500. *Swoon*.
Head to Huda Shaarawy Street for the whole experience.
This iconic Groppi might be closed for renovations, but their lesser known branch GROPPI GARDEN is still open for business and it's brimming with sugary delights for a sweet afternoon of dessert with your dearest.
Meanwhile national treasure El ABD has been a sweet-tooth favourite since the 70s. A creamy cone-full of their street-side all natural-flavored ice-cream, or a box of their famed oriental desert will have you set for a sunset stroll or even felucca ride (grab your boat from under the bridge next to the Hilton). Their prices are reasonable and the views are spectacular!
Groppi Garden is (tucked away) on 14 Adly Street.
El Abd is located on 25 Talaat Harb Street.
With the iconic EGYPTIAN MUSEUM having recently extended its opening hours till 7 pm, it makes for an unusual date night among the Pharoes. If you've not been since that school trip, you may have forgotten just how hauntingly beautiful the space is - perfect for a long romantic wander.
Then follow it by a gallery tour of Downtown Cairo. Mashrabia Gallery is showing the works of Ibrahim El Haddad where he used mixed media. It even has a little Ahwa right outside. Discuss the art you saw over a Turkish coffee before you
Go with with the traditional dinner and movie and check out CAIROMA for an alternative date. It’s a little place that actually has Italians running the show. Order the meatball pasta and reenact that scene from Lady and the Tramp.
Head to ZAWYA CINEMA for an indie foreign film your date has never heard of for a twist on the traditional.
Zawya is at Cinema Odean on Marouf Street off Talaat Harb Street.
Mashrabia Gallery is at 8 Champollion Street.
CaiRoma is on 19 Youssef El Gendy Street.
The Egyptian Museum is on 15 Meret Basha Street.
There's more elegance to Downtown than just places like the Diplomatic Club. We'd take our date to THE CARLTON HOTEL'S rooftop bar. If its walls could speak they would probably sound like Anwar Wagdy. You can choose to either dine with a fantastic view of the courthouse where you offer your date their succulent shishtawook, or choose the more intimate room inside under the fresco on the wall. Those tables couldn't be any more romantic.
For a more ritzy date though, don't forget about the NILE RITZ-CARLTON. While both Carltons offer a memorable experience the Ritz is the Ritz after all. And if you're worried about feeling out of place, don't. It gets a rep for being little too old world, but the Nile Ritz-Carlton is surprisingly hip. Try their nightclub Nox for instance. High up at the Ritz, you can take your date out and party with a full view of the Nile right smack in the middle of Downtown. But before you hit the dandce floor, try to dine at the Ritz's Vivo restaurant. Full views of the Nile and gourmet pizza. Did we mention a simply excellent wine selection? We're not surprised what with their Italian Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen.
The Old Carlton is in front of the court house on 26th of July Street.
The Nile Ritz-Carlton is at 1113 Corniche El Nil.
Forgo the Turkish imports saturating the market and head over to Downtown’s many silver shops for some locally made accessories that will actually last forever. We found that ATTEF WASSEF SILVER, the jewellers with a modern twist, make affordable but unique pieces. Their jewellery is impeccably detailed and matches the quality of any international brand. More importantly, it’s incredibly Egyptian; with designs and motifs inspired by our history and culture, but not in a dated way. We say, break the mold. Men have been buying the women jewellery for as long as Valentine’s existed. Ladies, at Attef Wassef, you get to throw a wrench in the patriarchal machine and buy your man some bling made for him this time.
Attef Wassef Silver is located on 54, Abd El Khalek Sarwat Street.