A KHAWAGA'S TALE: The Baladi Bar takes over Cairo

Peter A. Carrigan
6 Min Read

After a year in the planning it is finally here. Researched by dedicated drinkers, the “Baladi Bar Flyer puts the 50 Downtown watering holes on the map and includes a key to which bars are female friendly, serve shisha or have belly dancing.

A couple of Downtown bars have been my favorites for years: El-Horreya, the Barrel Bar in the Windsor Hotel and After Eight, of course. But Gemaica, Cape D’or and the Palmyra are all new to me.

The “Baladi Bar Flyer says of Gemaica: “Like the island it takes its name after (Jamaica), it’s a rowdy place, and a lot of fun. You automatically end up in the circle of regulars and will gently be dragged into their conversation. Great place to make new friends.

On Cap D’or: “Big brown and busy. One of the Baladi Bar Fly’s favorites for its friendliness and all you can eat fuul.

Palmyra: “Be welcomed by the tight-belted girls in this oasis of Egyptian naughtiness.

Over the years, it has been problematic taking women Downtown, because in some baladi (or traditional) bars like the Horreya, the toilets are a picture, and I am not talkin’ pretty.

But now with the “Baladi Bar Flyer’s recommendations for women, you can make a date, “On the 10th floor of the Odeon Hotel, well above the masses on the street, you find yourself in a little Arabesque fantasyland.

If you fancy a bogey with your babe at After Eight, don’t forget to book, but first eat across the road in Estoril. “It’s friendly and trendy, in an arty sort of way, writes Dutch Courage, the author of the Baladi bar map.

How about putting the world to rights? At the “intellectual hang-out, Le Grillon, “with a pleasant outside garden for shisha-smokers, you could become a regular yourself.

My favorite description on the “Baladi Bar Flyer is for La Bistro Pub. “The recent addition to Cairo’s nightlife is almost too classy for scruffy Downtown. Comfortable booths, shiny black marble, cocktails, mezza and the waiter actually asked us if we wanted our beers with or without foam.

With foam please and with the “Baladi Bar Flyer, the natural next step has to be the Baladi Bar crawl. Stay tuned, it will be Cairo’s answer to speed dating.

No record of Cairo’s Downtown nightlife worth its salt would be complete without a seriously good night out. This is what took place as a swarm of baladi bar flies descended on Shahrazad night club on Al-Alfi Street for the “Baladi Bar Flyer launch over the weekend.

The Tarbush was everywhere, and under the orient’s signature head dress, partygoers raged to the Arabesque pop tunes, swayed and salivated over the oriental dancers and swilled the taste of Egypt, cold Stella.

Again I was reminded of the village that Cairo is, as I came across amigos I thought were long gone, passed on or just forgotten. But no, they were just doing their drinkin’ elsewhere, I was told.

Bangin’ baladi night out; you could smile and strike up a conversation with anyone. Grab handfuls of bottles and pass them out merrily among your friends and all among the “magnificent Louis Farouk décor, high ceilings, red drapes and a golden podium for the cabaret.

It was a unique event, once in a decade I had been telling friends. Shahrazad was decorated with blow up excerpts from the map and there was a very stylish black souvenir t-shirt as punters poured onto Al-Alfi Street for shawermas, embossed with the double entendre, Baladi, in Arabic script.

But the bar I have to get to is Oxygen. The “Baladi Bar Flyer describes it as, “Trendy lighting, a dirty aquarium and gold rocks at the entrance; Oxygen offers a lot more than your average Downtown hotel bar. Worth checking out, especially if anonymity is required.

I love it. And afterwards, my next stop will possibly be the Harris Bar; “Big fat girlie bar. The red lights still reveal too much, but the live music makes up for it. Tissues are extra. Expect no less than great greedy service.

Tissues are extra? I have to know more.

Baladi is cool again and you’re welcome to join the baladi bar crawl, as I am working on the itinerary now. But in the meantime, keep an eye out for a copy of the “Baladi Bar Flyer at Drinkies and at a baladi bar of course, or visit www.baladibar.com. [email protected]

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