Cairo has a diverse assortment of drinking establishments, from the most historic to the most stylish and sophisticated. On the opposite end of the spectrum, practically every street in Cairo has a classic coffee shop, ‘ahwa, a traditionally male institution of social life that dates back hundreds of years. Aside from that, you’ll find everything from fruit stands to patisseries and bakeries, as well as contemporary cafés serving a variety of modern European coffees. In addition to the traditional Turkish coffee and shai tea, you’ll find drinks like hibiscus tea kerkedeeh, which is served warm or cold depending on the season, sahleb, a milk-based drink typically served in the winter, fakhfakhenna (a type of fruit salad), sugarcane juice, mango and tamarind juice, and Tamr hindi almost everywhere.
Traditional coffee houses
Cairo is one of the greatest places in the world for experiencing the region’s unique coffee house culture. In Standard Arabic, they are known as maqhâ, while in the local dialect, they are known as ‘ahwa. Turkish coffee is a must-have in every Cairo coffee shop, while water pipe (sheesha) and tea are even more popular. While deemed “old fashioned” for a while, these establishments are once again becoming popular among younger groups, and smoking a water pipe is no more a male-only habit. Places range from simple affairs (plastic chairs and tables placed on the street) to more elegant cafés, particularly in upmarket and tourist regions.
The sheesha, or water pipe, is the major draw for many visitors to a Cairene coffee shop. It is commonly offered in at least two flavors: mu’assal, which is pure tobacco, and tofâh, which is apple-flavored. Other fruit types are sometimes available. Coffee shops vary from the ornately furnished to a modest counter with a few plastic seats and tables laid out on the street. Foreigners are always welcomed, however ladies may feel uneasy visiting coffee shops in traditional, underprivileged districts of the city. However, solitary or women-only parties should not anticipate much more than the usual inconvenience in Islamic Cairo’s downtown and tourism zones.
Turkish coffee (‘ahwe turki) is served sweet (helwa), moderately sweet (masbout), lightly sweetened (sukr khafeef), or without sugar (sâda). Sweet implies very sweet. Tea (shai) is given in two forms: loose tea (kûshari, not to be confused with the Cairo macaroni-rice stamplekushari), sometimes known as dust tea in English, or tea bags. On request, most coffee establishments will provide fresh mint leaves to add in your drink. Soft drinks are frequently available in a variety of flavors. Typically, hibiscus tea (karkadee) is served warm in the winter and cold in the hot months.
Fruit juice stalls
Fruit juice vendors offering fresh juice (and sometimes fruit salads and other soft beverages) are a must-see during the sweltering Cairo summer. Essentially, these establishments offer fresh-pressed juice of whatever is in season. Orange (borto’ân), lemon (lamn), mango (manga) and strawberry (farawla), guava (gawafa), and pomegranate (Rommân) are common selections. Prices and quality vary according on season and availability. These establishments are located across the city and may be found in practically all tourist areas as well as all local residential neighborhoods. Traditional coffee shops and fruit juice stands may offer any or part of these beverages.
A health-related reminder If you prefer to drink drinks from fruit stands, take additional precautions. Food handling techniques in general do not meet Western food cleanliness standards. It should also be noted that some merchants blend their fruit juices with less-than-ideal tap water.
Modern cafes and pastry shops
Modern cafés and patisseries may be found all around the city. They often feature light fare such as sandwiches and salads, as well as espresso-based coffees and pastries. Many of these establishments are franchises, such as Cilantro, Beanos, Cinnabon, Orangette, The Bakery, and Coffee Roastery. The majority of these establishments, including all of the chains listed above, also provide wireless internet access. International coffee businesses like Costa Coffee and Starbucks are also commonly accessible in Cairo.