El Fishawy cafe in one of the sides of the Khan el Khalili bazaar in the chaotic capital of Egypt, camouflaged among shops selling fabrics, metalwork, and souvenirs is the mythical El Fishawy cafe Cairo, a place that fascinates locals and foreigners alike with its atmosphere and privileged location in the famous bazaar of the capital. If you are looking for a novel and curious place in Cairo, this could be it.
Not in vain, the place that was frequented decades ago by writers and intellectuals has a certainly unique and novel atmosphere. The decoration of the place, with big mirrors with golden frames and some dusty crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling that surely knew better times, wooden lattices, and rococo moldings contribute to creating the charming aspect of decadence and belonging to another time that is so attractive.
Here Naghib Mahfuz, the Egyptian Nobel Prize winner sat down to write every day seeking inspiration for his plots and characters. There is a reserved area inside the cafe where a small tribute is paid to him, a corner where it is said he liked to sit, watching the bazaar sway but not being immersed in it where the incessant hustle and bustle and the street vendors would not stop approaching him. Depending on the time of day we sit, it can be a more or less peaceful or almost overwhelming experience. During the day it is almost deserted, as Egyptians are nocturnal and foreigners do not usually board the bazaar until they have finished with the daily excursions, but it must be said that when the sun begins to set it becomes crowded with people, both Cairoians and foreigners, and that this continues every day until the early hours of the morning. Everyone wants to sit at one of the tiny round tables made of embossed brass, if possible outdoors, where the tired fans move the air cadenced, and where there is a lot of movement of people.
Who can resist participating in this atmosphere and being temporarily immersed in it? Although it is a narrow and very noisy street, the truth is that one sits down and is in no hurry to get up. Even when you “suffer” the continuous offers of street vendors or pedigree artists, which I recognize can be very annoying.
Cairoians and foreigners alike enjoy the art of watching people and chatting and laughing while smoking or drinking fragrant mint tea. It’s a great place to get your strength back, (so necessary in this frenetic city that exhausts everyone) immersed in the local culture or just to take a pleasant break if you’re thinking of shopping.