Nightlife in Cairo: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Aerial view of Cairo at night

Ahmed Alattar - Egyptian Photography / Getty Images

Despite the fact that alcohol is controlled by strict regulations in predominantly Muslim Cairo, the Egyptian capital still knows how to party come nightfall. With a reputation for being relatively progressive, the city offers a wide variety of nightlife options ranging from the traditional bars and coffee houses of downtown Cairo to the upscale Western clubs and bars of Zamalek. 

Baladi Bars

The word “baladi” roughly translates to “local,” and baladi bars are something of an institution in downtown Cairo. Much cheaper and more authentic than their Western counterparts, baladi bars are places to smoke cigarettes and shisha, and enjoy the uniquely Egyptian beer brand, Stella. 

El Horreya, a legendary spot with high ceilings and vintage fans, is a traditional Egyptian pub known as the favored haunt of artists, locals, and expatriates. Cafeteria Stella, meanwhile, is Egypt’s answer to a classic dive bar: tiny and grimy, yet authentic and surprisingly friendly to outsiders. Both are within easy walking distance of Cairo’s most important gathering place, Tahrir Square.

Western Bars

If you’re looking for a more typical Western nightlife experience, head to the cosmopolitan Zamalek neighborhood, located in the northern half of Gezira Island.

  • Crimson Cairo: With a greenery-adorned terrace, this rooftop wine bar and grill makes the most of the Nile River views for which Zamalek is best known. Admire the red-toned décor while sipping cocktails and reveling in the beauty of the city lights reflected in the river’s ink-dark waters. 
  • Cairo Cellar: Located in the basement of the President Hotel, this retro pub is a place to meet friends and catch up on the latest sports from 2 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.
  • Riverside Cairo: Riverside Cairo is a boutique hotel on the Zamalek river bank with a RestoBar that transforms into a sophisticated cocktail bar come nightfall. On weekends, guest DJs spin trendy beats late into the evening. 

Hotel Bars

Some of Cairo’s most glamorous drinking establishments are found inside the city’s luxury international hotels. The Nile Ritz-Carlton is home to several excellent bars, including the Ritz Bar (a classic cocktail bar open until 3 a.m.) and NOX (a rooftop lounge with signature cocktails; global small plates; and resident DJ performances on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights). At Fairmont Nile City, residents enjoy imported bubbly at the Champagne Bar, while its Saigon Restaurant & Lounge offers live entertainment on weeknights and a late closing time of 1 a.m.

In the summer, Kempinski Nile Hotel Garden City Cairo is the place to be. Head up to The Roof Top with its picture-perfect pool and panoramic views of the Nile and downtown skyline, and settle in for an evening of exotic shisha and cocktail flavors. The hotel’s Jazz Bar stays open until 2 a.m. and offers live entertainment on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. 

Ahwas

Ahwas, or traditional coffee houses, offer a more family-friendly atmosphere for smoking shisha and drinking strong Arabic coffee or tea served in elegant glasses. Open until late, ahwas are generally alcohol-free zones. Instead, entertainment comes from good company and the excellent people-watching opportunities afforded by sidewalk tables. We particularly like the modern ahwa located in the courtyard of Ottoman-era building Beit Zeinab Al Khatoun, near Al-Azhar Mosque. 

Cairo’s most famous ahwa is undoubtedly Fishawi’s, a coffee shop established in 1773 and located inside Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Linger awhile and draw inspiration from the frenetic atmosphere of the souk (much as Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz did when he was one of the venue’s most distinguished patrons). Or, regroup over a quick cup of tea or coffee before re-entering the fray. Fishawi’s is open 24 hours a day, with reduced operating hours during Ramadan. 

Late-Night Restaurants

Cairo also has more than its fair share of late-night restaurants. For eight in one place, make your way to Le Pacha 1901. Originally designed as a floating palace in 1901, this vintage ship is moored off the Zamalek shore and offers a mouthwatering array of different cuisines. Try Italian at Piccolo Mondo, Indian at Maharani, or opt for traditional Egyptian fare at Le Tarbouche. All restaurants onboard Le Pacha 1901 stay open until 1:30 a.m. at the earliest, and 3 a.m. at the latest. Meanwhile, the second deck also houses the Casino Barrière for roulette, Black Jack, poker, and more from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily.

Live Entertainment

If it’s live entertainment you’re after, Cairo Jazz Club has earned itself a reputation as the capital’s premier hub for live music over the past decade. Contrary to its name, the venue hosts musicians playing a wide variety of different genres, from jazz to rock, hip-hop, and acoustic. With a different event every day, there’s always something going on at this club. The Tap’s musical offerings are similarly diverse, with live shows taking place at three separate venues across the city, all of which stay open until 1 a.m. 

For more highbrow performances, check out El Sawy Culturewheel (live music, theatre, stand-up comedy, art exhibitions, and independent cinema) or the Cairo Opera House. The latter hosts classical music concerts and ballet as well as opera. Traditional belly dancing and Sufi whirling dervish performances take place regularly across Cairo. Check out the shows at various hotel restaurants and casinos, or on popular Nile dinner cruises like the one offered by Golden Pharaoh.

Tips for Going Out in Cairo 

  • Cairo’s Metro provides an easy, affordable, and safe way to get around the city center from 5:15 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • If you plan on staying out later than 1 a.m. (or if your destination isn’t on the metro route), hail a taxi or use a rideshare app like Uber or Careem. 
  • Taxis rarely have working meters, and as such, it’s important to agree on a price before accepting a ride. Be prepared to haggle for the best price (as with many other aspects of life in Cairo). 
  • Tipping is expected for almost every service in Egypt. An appropriate reward for good service at a bar or restaurant is 10 to 20 percent of your final bill. 
  • Remember that Egypt is a Muslim country and public displays of affection are frowned upon. This is especially true for gay couples and unmarried couples of any gender.
  • Drinking in the street or any other unlicensed public place is illegal and can lead to arrest. Public drunkenness is also considered offensive to the majority of Egyptians.
  • The legal drinking age in Egypt is 21. 
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