Downtown Cairo is a time capsule of 19th-century and early-20th-century architecture, the result of the Haussmannian transformation of the capital by the Khedive Ismail who ruled Egypt from 1863 to 1879. Radiating out from Talaat Harb Square, the grand boulevards of Talaat Harb and Kasr el Nil, linked by shaded passages, Italianate palaces, opulent Belle Époque and Art Deco apartment buildings; the downtown district also comprises generations-old businesses, as well as mosques, churches, and one surviving synagogue. The best time for walking is Friday morning before noon prayers. Download a map from D-Tours,and take advantage of D-Tours’ free, English-language group walks guided by an Egyptian architectural historian and photographer—an unmatched opportunity to explore everyday life. Try to finish up before the end of noon prayers to score a seat at Abou Tarek, a four-story restaurant popular with Cairenes and serving just one classic Egyptian dish: koshary, a hot salad of pasta, chickpeas, lentils, and fried onions topped by spicy tomato sauce. Or sip cold Stella or Saqqara beer (Greek and Egyptian staples) on the terrace of the Greek Club, a hangout in a Belle Époque building for intellectuals. Estoril, another old-school restaurant and bar, serves excellent tabbouleh, cheese- and spinach-stuffed sambousak, and vine leaves. Kafein, a modern café in an alley off Sherif Street, offers artisanal coffees (cold pours and cappuccino, as well as Arabic styles), seasonal fresh juices, and baked goods; the walls serve as exhibition space for local artists.
Locations for the beginning of D-Tour tours vary. Check their website for further details. You can find Abou Tarek on the corner of Marouf and Champolion Street. It can easily be spotted, especially at night, due to the three tiers of illuminated red and blue signs on the exterior. The Greek Club is in an old building on Mamoud Bassyouni Street, on the corner where it meets Talaat Harb Street and Al Boursa Al Gadida Street. Estoril is further down Talaat Harb Street. Kafein is on Sherif Street. You will be able to see the bright yellow sign outside.
D-TOURS: 20-2-2392-9651; cairo-dtour.com
ABOU TAREK: 16 Marouf St. on the corner of Champolion St.; 20-10-0105-9950
GREEK CLUB: 28 Mahmoud Bassyouni St.; 20-2-2575-0822
ESTORIL: 12 Talaat Harb St., entrance in the alley between Talaat Harb and Kasr El Nil Sts.; 20-2-2574-3102
KAFEIN: Address: 28، Sherif, Downtown، Cairo Governorate, Egypt; Hours: 7AM–12AM; 20 100 302 5346