Egypt,

Quiet oasis in Khan El-Khalili

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By Nour Motawa
Naguib Mahfouz Cafe

Khan El-Khalili certainly isn’t the quietest area in Cairo. Between hoards of inappropriately attired tourists, packs of vendors endlessly skilled in the art of creative heckling, and the horrendous parking situation, a visit to Khan El-Khalili is a lively, crowded experience in the heart of the capital.

Those who love Khan El-Khalili and return to it time and time again are those that understand the need for frequent breaks from exploring the endless market stalls. These unshakeable souls also have another thing in common: their knowledge of one of the Khan’s most tasteful spots: the Naguib Mahfouz Café.

Fishawy’s is all well and good, but located just down the alley from Al-Hussein Mosque; Naguib Mahfouz is an oasis in the midst of Khan chaos.

The venue features a café section, where drinks and shisha are served, while a restaurant section serves oriental classics. The interiors are in keeping with the oriental flavor of Khan El-Khalili and reflect the best of the area as immortalized in Mahfouz’s classic novels. Service is excellent, menu and drink selections are above average, and the overall atmosphere is one of impeccable hospitality.

If you’re just stopping in for a drink, choose from local favorites such as karkadeh or sahlab (LE 15) and sample the very popular house shisha. Other refreshing choices include milkshakes (LE 20) and a wide selection of teas: try a classic black tea with mint or a spicy cinnamon brew (LE 10). The café also serves sandwiches and other snacks for a quick pick-me-up between shopping.

If you come for lunch or dinner, leave enough time to experience the full menu and enjoy the atmosphere. Menu options cover oriental favorites: try a mezza selection of green salad, taameya, grape leaves, tehina, hummus, sambousak, Alexandrian liver or a classic lentil soup to start with, followed by a mixed grill platter, pigeon stuffed with cracked wheat or shrimp with rice.

Leave plenty of room for dessert — with favorites like om ali, rice pudding and mahalabeya made to perfection; you will not want to miss out. A snack or a meal here for two will set you back between LE 50 and LE 400 depending on how decadent your choices are — bargain hard while shopping at the market and you will have plenty left to spend on sustenance.

For a classy, hassle-free experience in Khan El-Khalili; be sure to escape frequently to Naguib Mahfouz Café, where you can experience the charm and appeal of Old Cairo, Mahfouz-style.

Best bit
The café isn’t just a placid oasis in the midst of chaos — the food and drink are actually worth braving the crowds of Khan El-Khalili to experience.

Worst bit
If the waiters don’t like the look of you, they might try to impose arbitrary minimum charges and other random requirements.

360 Tip
Make strategic use of Naguib Mahfouz by stopping by for a leisurely lunch or dinner and passing by again after shopping for further refreshment.

Naguib Mahfouz Café
5 El-Badistan Lane, Khan El-Khalili
Tel: 2593 2262

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