21 May

Elisa Sednaoui’s Guide to Cairo

The lowdown on the city’s best spots

Written By Sarah Ben Romdane

Think of Egypt, and the majestic Pyramids of Giza surely come to mind. But Cairo—Egypt’s capital and Africa’s biggest city—has much more to offer.

 

People say that New York never sleeps, but wait until you visit Cairo. Its electric energy is unrivalled. With Cairo’s bustling souk, its hectic streets and grand boulevards, its ancient mosques and Coptic churches (which hinge on the tranquil but stately Nile) it’s no wonder the city is often referred to as the “mother of the world”.

 

Actress, model and activist Elisa Sednaoui spent the first five years of her life in Cairo, and has kept strong, sentimental ties with the city ever since. “Cairo is a part of me”, says Sednaoui.

 

Her love of her native city is in part why she has dedicated the majority of her time to developing Funtasia (her eponymous foundation, which functions both as an educational curriculum development and community-based implementer). “It is still a rare occurrence to find education that does not only teach academic content and specific skills, but supports young people in teaching them how to find creative solutions to life challenges, how to make their own choices, how to live as a contributing member of a local and global community or to empower them to realize their full potential”, she says.

 

We caught up with Sednaoui to find out her favourite local spots to eat, hang, shop and check out art.

 

 

Where to Eat

 

Abu El Sid, Zamalek

 

Authentic Egyptian food served in a retro, kitsch-meets-oriental-inspired décor. A classic.

 

abouelsid.com

 

Zooba, Zamalek

 

For simple, fresh and contemporary Egyptian street food.

 

zoobaeats.com

 

Taboula, Garden City

 

Best Lebanese spot in this residential area.

 

taboula-eg.com

 

Felfela, Downtown

 

Where you’ll find the best ta’ameya – Egypt’s famous falafel made of fava beans.

 

felfela.com

 

Abou Tarak, Downtown

 

The Koshary—Egypt’s traditional street food dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils—is so good and cheap; the restaurant recently got featured on CNN.

 

Helwan, Al Inshaa WA Al Munirah, El-Sayeda Zainab, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

 

Birdcage, Semiramis InterContinental Hotel, Garden City

 

Excellent Asian-fusion food in a beautiful hotel facing the Nile.

 

ihg.com

 

Makino, Hilton, Zamalek

 

If you’re into sushi, that’s you’re spot.

 

facebook.com

 

Mezcal, Zamalek

 

Mouthwatering Latin American-fusion food. The ceviche is a must have.

 

mezcalcairo.com

 

 

Where to Hangout

 

Aperetivo, Zamalek

 

A popular nightspot in Cairo, great for cocktails.

 

facebook.com

 

The Roof, Kempinski Nile Hotel

 

Probably Cairo’s best rooftop, overlooking the Nile. Great for a late afternoon swim and drink.

 

kempinski.com

 

Sequoia, Nile

 

Ever dreamt of sipping wine literally by the Nile?

 

sequoiaonline.net

 

Infinity Pool, Sofitel Cairo Nile El Gezirah

 

Most beautiful pool hands down.

 

sofitel-cairo-nile-elgezirah.com

 

Makan, Egyptian Centre for Culture and Arts

 

A great place to catch live music.

 

egyptmusic.org

 

Diwan Bookstore, Zamalek

 

Original colouring books can be found there.

 

diwanegypt.com

 

Elle Salon

 

Egyptian hairdressers are the best. Tager Gamil from Elle Salon understands my hair like no other. Treat yourself a blow dry like a real Cairene would do.

 

@ellesaloneg

 

 

Galleries

 

Gypsum, Garden City

 

Cairo’s best contemporary art spot, which showcases international and multidisciplinary artists who engage with social, political themes.

 

gypsumgallery.com

 

Wissa Wassef Art Centre

 

A centre celebrating traditional craftsmanship like tapestry, pottery and batik.

 

wissawassef.com

 

 

Where to Shop

 

Malaika

 

The best quality linen and apparel like fun travel bags, towels or pyjamas,

 

malaikalinens.com

 

Vartan jewellery, Zamalek

 

Where I have tailor-made in gold my eldest son’s name in Arabic calligraphy.

 

vartanjewelry.com