28 December 2012

Life in Cairo: Food and Nightlife!

Overlooking Cairo at night

One of the best nights I had in Cairo was hanging out with my girlfriends in Zamalek. In addition to checking out the antique shop, and various other items in the area, I realized simultaneously that cupcakes are in fashion in Cairo, and I really missed fancy-pants cupcakes while in Iraq. Lo and behold there was Nola! Soft cake, creamy sweet frosting, and overall, delicious!  

So one of my roommates went on and on and on about Naguib Mahfouz's Cairo Trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street), so we just had  to try the Naguib Mahfouz restaurant, Kasr Elshouk.
Having never read this trilogy on life in Cairo during the British Colonial occupation, but one mention of the word food, and I was game! I'm still not sure what the restaurant had to do with the books, but I'm guessing that some of these recipes featured prominently in the story.

In addition to the traditional Egyptian Molokhyia and Khoshary dishes, there was stuffed pigeon (why did I order this?!), as well as a kind of scalloped potato recipe loaded with cheese and fried onions. With the addition of the spicy red sauce, it was fantastic.

One thing I definitely liked was the decor of the place. I love the North African style of low couches and tables, the stone walls, and brass items all over the place.

After dinner, we went for a cruise on the Nile. It was incredibly beautiful and much more peaceful on the water than you'd think Cairo would be.

This was the same day that a series of protests rocked Cairo (and a large part of the Muslim world) because of that awful movie portraying a fictional account of the Prophet Muhammad.  As we approached the harbor that night, I caught a horrible whiff of teargas which was lingering in the air around the US Embassy. For some reason, it hit me particularly hard in our group (hello, asthma!), and though diluted, I couldn't stop coughing, crying, and wheezing. It was fantastic. I resorted to covering my face with my silk scarf just to keep the new pockets of gas in the air from getting to me. My flatmates thought it was hilarious. I would hate to be caught in a real cloud of teargas...

It was a lovely trip on the river though, in spite of the tear gas. There were many boats lit up traversing the water alongside us, many of them moving and grooving to loud Egyptian pop music. This one had loads of dazzling lights, and was whirling about in the water in every direction. We were on a sailboat, but for a moment, I kind of wanted to be on that boat, because it looked like they were having a blast!

Another night, we set out to have sushi. I heard about a great new place in Zamalek that serves authentic Japanese food, called Makino. Unfortunately, they were closed for no reason we could figure out. Luckily, my friend has tried every other sushi place in town, and took us to another good one, just within walking distance nearby.

The service was pretty good, but I will always, always pick Egyptian fresh lemonade to drink. It's seriously the best!

After a one-week tour of Upper Egypt (read: Southern), I met two of my longtime friends in Heliopolis where I was staying near the airport. I discovered that there was an authentic Mexican restaurant in the area that I definitely wanted to try. I explored the menu, and I have to agree, Maria's Mexican located in the Fairmont Hotel, is fantastic.

We opted to share an appetizer and some mains between the four of us, so that we could all have a bit of everything. The tableside guacamole was an excellent choice, and paired perfectly with the fresh, homemade tortilla chips. One of our favorites was the Pollo Estilo Maya, with rice, peppers and grilled pineapple. The service was fantastic, the food excellent, and I highly recommend the fresh juices.

1 comment:

Beau Pace said...

Never too late to send New Year wishes. Nice post.