An advantage to staying in Cairo is its vast variety of options to choose from when you’re hungry. Cairo has an abundance of fast-food places where you can grab a quick bite and where you will find just about every sandwich you can think of. However, we are here for those times when you are seeking more than just a quick bite. Specifically, for when you’re in an experimenting mood or just feel like having a different dining experience. Whatever the reason, be it a birthday, special occasion or just the sake of novelty, we did a quick scan around Cairo and put together this list of top 10 dining experiences. While our list of restaurants includes both budget-friendly and not-so-budget-friendly places. You don’t really need to be spending a lot of money to shake up your routine for a bit. You don’t need to splurge for a change of scenery; rather, all you need is a sense of adventure and an open mind. Just by scamming the surfacing of the restaurants in Cairo, we were able to include a variety of different cuisines to suit different palettes. Both local oriental and international dishes are mentioned, in no particular order.
We decided to start the list with a dash of local flavor, since that’s what visitors to Cairo will be seeking to experience as a first stop. Nothing says oriental like Abou El Sid. From its jewel-toned, vintage interior to its old-fashioned silverware and homemade dishes, this gem has locations in Zamalek, Sixth of October and Heliopolis. An old favorite at Abou El Sid is their molokheya, a staple in Egyptian cuisine. It is served alongside a roasted chicken or rabbit. Another excellent dish is their circasian chicken served in a rich walnut sauce.
Another old local oriental favorite is Farahat. This kababgy serves traditional Egyptian dishes like kofta, kabab and hamam mahshi (pigeon stuffed with spiced rice). Their food is hearty, tasty and filling. However, Farahat’s menu doesn’t offer a lot of variety other than those dishes. Reconsider going there if you’re a vegetarian, as Farahat doesn’t even serve chicken. Prices are average. Farahat has branches in Nasr City, Heliopolis and al-Azhar. The overall atmosphere is cozy, casual and definitely an authentic setting to experience local culture.
This charming oriental café will take you back in time to Cairo in the 1940’s. Tucked away in the historic Khan al-Khalili marketplace, it’s a fantastic place to relax with a cup of mint tea after a day of shopping or sightseeing at Khan al-Khalili. The atmosphere at Naguib Mahfouz is relaxed and quiet lively at the same time, with its live music and unperturbed customers engaged in conversation or having a shisha (hookah).
Koshari is a popular Egyptian food and considered the “National Dish” of Egypt. It is a mix of rice, lentils, hummus (chickpeas) and pasta topped with a tomato sauce and dakka which is a sort of vinegar-garlic dressing. It is served with shatta (spicy sauce) as well, for you to add at your own discretion. For dessert, a cold, sweet rice pudding is said to cool down your insides after a flaming koshari meal. Abou Tarek is believed to be the best koshari restaurant in Cairo. It’s located in Cairo’s busy downtown area, is several floors high, and offers one of the most authentic koshariexperiences yet.
Another loved oriental dish is shawarma. Shawarma places are widespread and popular in Cairo; however, one beef shawarma in particular stands out as an old favorite of many. Abu Haidar’s mini-bun-sized beef shawarma sandwiches are spiced, spit-cooked, sliced to perfection, and served to you piping hot, where you can eat it on the hood of your car, or just standing to one side in the street, like fellow Abu Haidar diners. This one-branch wonder is located in Roxy, Heliopolis. It’s perfect for when you want a tasty and quick bite while shopping or people watching in Heliopolis’s absorbing streets.
Authentic experiences in Cairo don’t necessarily mean Egyptian. Gaya, a Korean restaurant in Maadi, serves delicious Korean dishes like Beef Bulgogi and Bibimpap. It’s roomy, minimal interior is spotless and relaxing, and a delicious array of Korean starters are laid out at your table as soon as you’re done ordering. From the steel chopsticks to its Korean clientele, Gaya offers a unique and high quality experience. It is also one of the few restaurants in Cairo to serve pork.
Andrea is one of the oldest restaurants in Cairo, having opened in 1958. They are most famous for their tasty charcoal-grilled chicken, but they also serve shish tawouk and hamam mahshi. Other favorites include an extensive mezza menu of baba ghanoush, tahini, and stuffed-vine leaves. This floating restaurant in Cairo’s Nile River also offers a fantastic view. They also bake their own bread using traditional Egyptian methods.
While on the subject of stunning views of the Nile, we just had to mention L’Asiatique. Located on the lower deck of the floating Le Pacha 1901, L’Asiatique offers Thai, Chinese, Indian and Japanese cuisine all under one roof. The stunning Asian décor, sushi bar and high-class service all guarantee a unique experience.
Le Chantilly is a charming restaurant in Cairo’s beloved Korba square in Heliopolis. Part of a world-class Swiss chain, Le Chantilly has been the go-to spot for a good steak and a glass of wine in Cairo for decades. Established in 1976 as a leading gourmet chain of restaurants, Le Chantilly will never lose its charm.
One of the oldest pizza chains in Cairo, Maison Thomas has been around since 1922. Its charming pizzeria-style interior and quality ingredients make for a very pleasant time. Whether you go to the picturesque Heliopolis branch or one of the newer ones, the atmosphere at Thomas is relaxed in an old-timer, nostalgic way.
Some tours, depending on tour length will visit some pyramids and not others. As a priority for a short visit, some tours offer only the visit to the Giza plateau as a main attraction; however, all the pyramids explored in this article are worth visiting if you’re an enthusiast. Each of them has its own unique features and story. It is best to allocate a day for the Pyramids of Giza, and another day to visit the pyramids in Dahshur and Saqqara, which is less than an hour’s drive from Cairo. A trip to Saqqara and Dahshur (only around 9 km away from each other) can be completed in one day. If you plan to visit the Giza pyramids as well, it is better to visit these first in order to witness the evolution of pyramid building yourself.