Cairo has no shortage of places to grab a coffee and/or tea: cafés are everywhere. There are baladi (local) ones, massive ones, trendy ones, shisha-smoking ones. At the intersection of El Marashly and Ahmet Heshmet in Zamalek is the charming Arabica Café. There’s a nondescript entrance is on the corner of Ahmet Heshmet Street, where you push through the door to climb a creaky wooden staircase that leads you to the second floor. Along the way you can gaze at the artwork of former patrons that line the cherry red walls.
Arabica’s décor is simple yet colourful, with lovely antique lamps, tiled floor and vintage photos of old Egypt on display. There are plush couches to sink into in the TV area, while high tables and window-bank seating reign throughout the rest of the café. Covert nooks where you can sip on your coffee and either get lost in your smart-object or watch the world go by.
While this isn’t the kind of place to get a gourmet spread, it’s nice if you want a quick – and inexpensive – bite that revolves around standard mezze favourites (hummus, baba ganoush, baladi potatoes), as well as continental breakfast, lunch and dinner selections. The drinks are really the draw of Arabica, with a host of coffees, teas, fresh juices, smoothies and iced beverages to choose from. The blended juices/smoothies are my favourite and they’re quite good at not adding sugar or other items (e.g. ice cream) you deem intolerable.
Arabica staff are attentive and friendly, which explains why the café is often busy, with a mix of young and old, students and travellers, locals and expats, milling around tables as they get the latest gossip or tik tak away on their humming laptops and iPads.
The best part of Arabica mind you (here the child in me emerges) is the sheet of paper that acts as your tablecloth and the cup of crayons that beg you to mark your territory. I’ve sometimes spent hours nursing a pot of tea, reading a book and scrawling crude and rudimentary flowers, stick men and hearts all over my blank slate. If you’re not one for generating your own crayoned creations, you can at least admire the handiwork that clientele have left behind.
Slurp away on your smoothie and scribble on.
20 El-Marashly Street
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt
Open daily from 9:00 – 23:00