Zamalek is a relatively affluent and pseudo-European residential district of the Egyptian capital Cairo that occupies the northern half of the island of Gezira, the large Nile river island located in the heart of the Cairo metropolis (the name is a redundancy, as 'gezira' means 'island' in Arabic). (The district of Gezira occupies the southern half the island). While not noted for obvious tourist attractions, Zamalek is a good place to stay and a good place to eat while in Cairo, as the residential nature of the area and presence of many expatriate residents allow tourists to navigate relatively easily.
Zamalek is unevenly bisected by the major artery formed by Sharia 26th of July that crosses SE to NW over two bridges, linking Bulaq (north of Downtown Cairo) with Mohandiseen in Giza via Zamalek.
Zamalek is best reached by taxi. The Opera Station of the Cairo Metro (line 2) is located on the southern tip of Gezira, adjacent to the Opera House and Gezira Sheraton, but is still a significant walk from the main areas of Zamalek. A taxi to Zamalek from Downtown or Mohandesin should be no more than 5 EP
Zamalek is small enough to navigate on foot. The area is clearly laid out in Cairo: The Practical Guide Maps, a small atlas published by the American University of Cairo Press, and available locally at the AUC Bookshop in Zamalek, or at Diwan bookstore.
Zamalek offers some of the best eating in Cairo. There's a large variety of quality restaurants serving everything from Egyptian molokhia to Thailand Red Curry. But also, the green and atmospheric atmosphere on the Nile-Island makes for a perfect dinner setting. Zamalek is also the place to visit if you want to escape Ramadan, many places stay open during day-time and alcohol is served (to foreigners only) at most of the water-holes.
26th of July has a range of stalls serving the usual selection of arabic and western fast food. In addition there is a cluster of fish and seafood cafeterias in the same street between shagrat-al-dor and kamal mohammed.
Didos Al Dente, 26 Sharia Baghat Ali, (022)735 9117. This place serves pasta, and dishes are amazingly cheap, ranging from six to about twenty EP. Small, intimate setting, making it an excellent spot for dates (despite its small setting, the waiters will let you linger/flirt at the table). Generally full from 5pm-close, waiting on the street outside is common, but it is worth the wait. They serve up some of the best pasta in all of Cairo. You pick your sauce, you pick the kind of pasta you want, and the cooks do the rest. The kitchen is directly in view so you can watch them serve up your food. Try the bolognese, the crab sauce, or the frutti de mare with white sauce.
Beano's, south to the 26th of July street near the Marriot hotel and the Gezira Arts Center. It has a west-european style and serves food all day during Ramadan.
Deal's, al-Sayyid al-Bakri St near Abou al-Sid. Purportedly the best burgers in Cairo. Doubles as a pub. Open during Ramadan.
Euro-Deli, 22a Dr. Taha Hussein St. (close to President Hotel and the Chinese embassy). 736 61 12 (24 hours delivery). 24 hrs. This place specialises in continental food and has several healthy salads and bagels in addition to very good coffee. Free Wi-Fi availabe and the place is popular with foreign students.
Maison Thomas, near Cilantro and Diwan on the north side of 26 July St. 24 hrs. Legendary establishment (Om Kolsoum once ate here) serving pastries, light food, and pizza. Owned by Coptic Christians, this is one of the very few places in Egypt that serves 'real' ham and bacon. Beer available for take-away except during Ramadan.
L'Aubergine, 5 El-Sayed Al-Bakry St, (02) 738-0080 (next to the post office at the corner of Sayed al-Bakri and Sharia Brazil). 2nd floor turns nightclub at night. Closed during Ramadan.
'Sabai Sabai, 21 El Maahad El Swiesri, next to the Nile Zamalek Hotel, on Brazil St., Zamalek Tel: 735 1846, Mob: 010 3921736. Serves traditional Thai food in stylish settings and good service, this is a welcome add to the Cairo Thai scene. Specify if you want the food spicy.
Abou al-Sid, around the corner from Diwan. Owned by the conglomerate also responsible for Tabouleh (a rockin' awesome Lebanese restaurant in Garden City), and L'Aubergine, Abou al-Sid features high-end Egyptian cuisine and superb fresh juices. Very atmospheric.
Drinkie's, phone no. 19330, on the easternmost part 26th of July St., just before you start to go overt the bridge into downtown, close to the pizza restaurant Maison Thomas. It is less than 3 blocks north from the Cairo Marriott. 24 hours delivery.
Cilantro, 157, 26th July St, (02) 736-1115, and another branch in the Om Kolsoum Hotel on Abu el-Feda just north of the 26th July St Bridge crossing to Agouza. Part of a local coffeestore chain (think Starbucks) with pastries, light sandwiches, sodas, and free wi-fi.
Simonds, 112 Sharia 26th of July, tel 02 735 9436, open daily 9 am-midnight - a small, long-established and highly popular café frequented by expats, journos and students. Rather intimate, space is at a premium with just a few stools available or stand at the bar. Very good cappucino. A great selection of sweets, pastries and juices is also on offer.
Café Tabasco, 18b, el marashly st., tel 027358465. Open daily 7am-3am. Good coffee, a variety of Western and Arabic dishes including "American Breakfast" and pancakes. Popular hangout for foreign students. Wireless internet available.
Costas Coffee, el marashly st.- another Cairo coffee chain, delicious coffee, small selection of pastries, sandwiches, and cold drinks. Best for take out coffee.
Euro Deli, 22a Dr. Taha Hussein St. (02)736 61 12. Healthy food, homemade fries and salads. Good milkshakes. Wireless internet available.
Café de Paris, 10 Mohamed Thakeb Pacha St. (off El merashly St.) (02) 735 37 39. 3 pm-2am. This place has drinks, sheesha and beer in nice garden surroundings with flat-TV running constant arabic pop. Popular with nearby students from the AUC student quarters. Light food is also served.
Sequoia - 3 Abu el-Fida St. Tel. +20 (0) 735 0014. Open 1pm - 2am. An absolutely gorgious open-air Lounge Bar/Restaurant at the northern tip of Zamalek, directly on the Nile. One of the most popular places for the young elite and resident foreigners. Sequoia does not only offer a variety of good mezze's, grills and other main courses but is also one of the best (if not THE best) places in town to smoke shisha. Sequoia has a shisha menu with 15-20 flavours of tabacco, which you can smell before making your choice. The interior is modern and all white, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. Reservation may be needed on Wednesday nights and weekends when people come here to see and be seen. Eventhough it is expensive for local standards Sequoia deserves a strong recommendation.
Pub 2828 shagaret El Dorr St. (02)735 92 00. Noon-2AM. Typical British pub hauted by expats and locals alike. International brands of liquor. Food served. Very popular, book table if you are not content sitting in the bar. Open during Ramdan. Stella 15 EP, main dishes from 25-60 EP.
Deals 2 El Sayed El Bakry St. (off 26th of July St.) (02)735 90 01. 4pm-2am. Another popular pub haunt. Cable TV, DJ and house music. Pub menu. Open during Ramadan. Stella 15 EP, main dishes from 25-60 EP.
Harry's Pub Cairo Mariott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casiono. Sarya El Gezira St. (02) 735 88 88 ext: 8495. Karaoke-pub turns disco when the crowds are big enough. Local beer 20 EP.
Sekem, Ahmad Sabri St, between Shagaret El-Dorr and Brazil St, next to Mobacco Cottons. Cairo's only organic food/health product store.
American University in Cairo Bookstore, 16, Mohammad Thakeb, (02) 739-7045. Smaller version of the main campus bookstore downtown. Featuring AUC Press publications and more.
Diwan, 159, 26th July St, (02) 736-2582. Possibly Cairo's best English-language bookstore, also carries Egyptian and western music, videos and DVDs. A small cafe serves coffee and pastries.
Zamalek Bookstore, 19, Shagaret El-Dorr St, (02) 736-9197. Small bookstore, with a large selection of English children's books and stationary products.
Mobacco Cottons Ahmad Sabri St, between Shagaret El-Dorr and Brazil St. Sells high-quality Egyptian cotton clothing, most of which is made in Egypt and exported. Prices are higher than other stores in Egypt, but the quality is comparable to stores in the US and Europe.
"Concrete" has high quality men's dress shirts that rivals anything in London, Paris, or Milan, and does free custom tailoring for trousers and suits. Ties are over priced, but otherwise, the prices are extremely reasonably given the quality.