On a chilled out Ramadan week night, going to a commercial tent may not be the ideal outing for everybody. Yet you probably don’t feel like staying home night after night; I know I don’t.
An old spot rediscovered is the promenade at the Cairo Marriott Hotel, where you can enjoy good weather in a diverse atmosphere with only a slight touch of Ramadan, staying away from the overcrowded social scene that only seems to appear during this month. For many conservative people in Egypt, Ramadan is a license to stay out until the early hours of morning.
Towards the end of the promenade is a designated area usually called Egyptian Nights year round. During the holy month, this area is obviously the one that becomes the “khema (tent), although it doesn’t change much except for a few fawanees here and there as well as a new menu.
The venue is quite wide, so it is easy to find a seating area that is a little private for you and your friends to comfortably chit chat. A verity of shisha flavors are available for connoisseurs, who enjoy puffing the night away.
Alternatively, if shisha bothers you, the outdoor breeze dissolves the smoke so it doesn’t have that intense shisha smell that can be intoxicating to some.
Being outdoors is surely a plus in October as the weather is absolutely perfect at night. In a T-shirt, it can even get a little chilly.
The menu features typical tent fair: Lebanese and Egypt mezzes like sambousak, kobiba, stuffed grape leaves and so on. Main dishes include mesa’a (baked aubergine, minced meat and bechamel), grilled chicken and other local favorites.
Another great selection is the fitir meshaltit, both savory and sweet.
The Marriott service is a little on the slow side as usual. But when things eventually arrive, the standard is quite high.
This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the live band. The duet consists of a young man with torn jeans (the hip style, not beggar style) and a white blazer, and a blonde woman in an animal print cat suit. They looked bored to death as they sang Arabic tunes to a disinterested audience. At least it wasn’t too loud, and provided distant background music.
Looking around the place, the crowd is hard to define as it has a little bit of everything. The fashionable, the casual, the Arab tourists, the Western tourists, the girls’ night out, and the awkward couple on what looks like their first date.
On our neighboring table was a foreign crew drinking beer, adding to the non-traditional tent atmosphere.
Not to knock Ramadan as it definitely has its charm, it’s just the cliché loud music, strong shisha aroma and intense crowds that can get redundant.
A tradition at the Marriott for as long as I can remember is the festive lights on top of the building. This season it says “Ramadan Karim and has a little mesaharaty underneath; very cute.
The bill was actually less than expected; we each paid LE 75 which is lower than the minimum charge in most Ramadan tents.
Walking out I noticed a little hut for fortune telling with a fingal (Turkish coffee mug) and henna tattoos. The woman didn’t seem very busy, as she sat on the floor reading the Quran.
“That looks like fun! one of my friends exclaimed as we were leaving.
“We’ll try it next time, I replied, realizing that this is where we would be spending many a Ramadan night this year.
Marriott 16 Saray El Gezira St, Zamalek, CairoFor reservations call: (02) 2728 3000