What I wish I’d known before I moved to Egypt

I wrote this post in January 2019, shortly after leaving Cairo. It has sat in my drafts for ages as I couldn’t find a time when it felt right to publish but now seems like a good time.

1. Moving here will be one of the hardest things you will do and you will nearly book flights back to the UK on a monthly basis. In the next 18 months you will experience the highest highs and the lowest lows.

2. You won’t travel to Jordan and Lebanon as you plan, there is so much to see in Egypt you won’t need to leave. In the next 18 months you’ll visit Alexandria, Sahl Hasheesh, Luxor, Ain Sokhna and have many Cairo staycations.

Ain Sokhna

3. Kayaking down the Nile on a Friday morning is magical, but it’s a lot less work to hire a private yacht and do it in style.

Kayaking the Nile
Cristina Yacht hire

4. You will massively lose your shit and cause a huge scene at Cairo airport when a taxi driver tries to charge you 170LE to get from T1 to T2. Eventually you settle on 50LE which will still kill you a bit inside.

5. Despite being asked to sign your name 1,783 times in front of a CIB member of staff until it is perfect, the name on your bank card will still be spelt incorrectly.

6. You know that you definitely want a burial chamber with hieroglyphs inspired by ancient Egypt.

Egyptian hieroglyphics

7. You’ll learn a bit of Arabic and you will use it daily. The sense of achievement when you can read a car registration plate is a small victory!

8. Driving home one night you’ll hear a weird sound in the car, then you realise it’s your indicator which you haven’t used for so long you’ve forgotten what it sounds like.

9. Egyptian vodka is lethal.

Egyptian vodka should come with a warning

10. Nefertari mandarin body scrub is the best thing ever

11. You will be shocked at the severe poverty here – never take for granted how fortunate you are.

Zabbaleen ‘garbage city’

12. You will find a good kennels for Dyson and it isn’t the place you go to check out where they simply shut dogs in a cupboard, no exaggeration.

Dyson spent his holidays at Hounds Club

13. You’ll become a pro at using your horn. One quick beep means ‘I’m in your vicinity’ a longer beep means ‘I’m overtaking / right next to you’ and a long beep means ‘ we’re about to die’

14. The banking system here is designed to test every last bit of patience you have. You must psych yourself up before a visit and if it goes well you’ll be confused why it went well and assume you’ll need to go back a few days later.

15. Koshary is delicious, go to Abu Tarek frequently.

Koshary Abou Tarek

16. The Oberoi in Sahl Hasheesh will be one of the best hotels you’ll ever stay in.

The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh

17. You will get used to doing a Gourmet shop on a Friday morning and wait for them to tell you what they don’t have so you can then do a Dakakyan shop followed by a final Metro shop. Even then you probably won’t have what you need so you’ll Otlob a KFC and Nola.

Nola rainbow cake

18. You will fall in and out of love with Egypt on a daily basis.

Cairo Tower

19. You will find a good beauty salon (Josy), hairdresser (Christie) and dentist (Cairo smile).

20. The gym is a waste of money – don’t join. The 1hr class will last about 25 minutes by the time the instructor has arrived, greeted everyone and had a chat. Most people in the class will wander in late, answer their phone in the class and use the mirrors to apply their make up.

21. Take advantage of Egyptian resident rates. The Hilton is Luxor is beautiful and you’ll get a HUGE discount.

The Hilton, Luxor

22. Don’t attempt Zumba, you will feel like the person who turned up sober at a party 3 hours late when everyone else is wasted.

23. You will get used to getting ready for work using a jug of tepid water between two of you because the water has been cut …….again.

24. You will meet a lovely bunch of people and make some awesome memories.

The Rehab 7

25. You can pay all your bills using Fawry at an ATM and online using the Fawry app (when the internet is working).

26. Bring ear plugs, Egypt is LOUD. A white noise app will become your best friend.

27. Fayoum is magical

Magic Lake

28. You’ll never feel as much disappointment at a restaurant closure than when you hear Sequoia has shut down!

Sequoia

29. Seeing Ramses IV tomb at the Valley of the Kings will blow your mind and make you a bit emotional.

Valley of the Kings

30. Never expect a tradesman to come with anything he needs to do his job. The painter will come without a bucket to mix his paint, the electrician will come without ladders and the guy who’s coming to measure for doors won’t have a tape measure

31. Stock up at Boots, especially tampons.

32. The BCA in Kattameya is good for a pie / fish & chip fixed every now and then.

BCA Kattameya

33. You will stop using the 4th exit of a roundabout. Like the locals you’ll learn to just do a U turn instead

34. Walking around a Christmas market listening to carols, eating sausages, drinking beer and making way for Mary riding her donkey feels surreal.

Christmas in Cairo

35. You’ll never find out what half the switches in your apartment are for, there’s a high probability you’re controlling next doors lights.

36. Don’t think that roundabouts are there to help the flow of traffic. They are for socialising, selling bananas, oranges, plants, rugs, fish, crabs and cuddly toys which make great gifts.

Dysons rescue birthday present

37. Bring warm clothes, December and January are fairly chilly, bizarrely it’s colder inside than out.

38. When you hear people talking about pyramids you don’t think of Giza, you think of their evolution and the poor bent one at Dahshur.

The bent pyramid

39. There will be far too many random experiences including your private driver bringing his mother in law and a picnic on your rode trip to Alexandria. Breaking down because the oil in the car engine was ‘too heavy’ and accidentally ending up in a high security water treatment plant

40. You’ll never regret the 18 months you spent in Egypt, professionally it was fantastic and personally there were some amazing highlights………..but you made the right choice to leave.

Our leaving party

Staycation Package at the Royal Maxim Palace Kempinski, Cairo 

Last week I had what was previously referred to as a ‘Doha Day’ – I’m not sure what to call it now I’m in Cairo but it wasn’t a good day. Greg felt I needed a bit of time to myself, a bit of pampering, so he suggested I booked a solo staycation at the Kempinki near our home (I think he was just trying to get rid of me). The hotel offers a fantastic staycation package so I booked in for the Thursday evening reserving a single occupancy, deluxe room via their website and paid $130. The staycation package includes;

  • Complimentary upgrade if booked directly through their website 
  • Breakfast buffet per person
  • Access to swimming pool and spa facilities
  • Pizza and soft drink by the pool (worth approx 200LE) per person
  • 15% off the bill in Lucca, Romanov or Yana
  • 100/200LE discount on a 50/80min spa treatment per person
  • 4pm check out

Check in  – So that I could make full use of my stay I arrived at midday. I didn’t expect my room to be ready so planned to go to the pool but I was pleased to be told it was available. Check in was friendly and, at the time, I felt it was efficient but in hindsight it could have been better. The lobby area is lovely with a wonderful flower display and a huge chandelier, there were lots of staff on hand. I was personally escorted to my room and my bag followed a few minutes later

The room – I booked the cheapest room and I was happily surprised at how luxurious it felt for a ‘basic’ room. I loved the high ceiling and large windows as this made the room feel light and airy even though the furnishings were deep, rich, dark colors. It was very well sound proofed despite it facing the ring road.

The bed was very, very comfortable and the room overall felt spacious. In addition to the TV and work desk ( with USB ports) there was a long corridor with a full length mirror, luggage storage, clothes hooks, a drinks stand with tea/kettle, complimentary water and a Nespresso machine. 

​I was disappointed to see that the fridge was empty as was the space for the Nespresso capsules and the tea bags hadn’t been replenished either. Maybe housekeeping hadn’t had time to restock the room as I’d checked in early? After mentioning these issues to reception everything was quickly brought to the room but really the room shouldn’t have been made available until everything was checked.

** rant alert**  I rung housekeeping to see if I could have some fresh milk as I think using powdered creamer in tea is just gross, but they said it would not be free. This simple gesture in a 5 star hotel really frustrates me. A small milk is 4LE, I point blank refuse to pay room service for milk so Greg ended up bringing me one over later that night. Its just annoying and a personal bugbear of mine  **rant over**


​The bathroom was huge and was spotlessly clean. In addition to the rainfall shower there was a separate bath, toilet, bidet and a large sink.

The bathroom also housed floor to ceiling wardrobes with plenty of space for those staying for a few nights or more. There was a safe, hand held hairdryer and slippers. The robes unfortunately were missing.



Facilities – I mostly used the outdoor pool and the spa area during my stay. The pool is a really good size and the space has been well designed. Some rooms have access straight onto the pool area, there are lots of loungers with umbrellas and there is a cafe area which offers drinks and snacks. The staff here were really attentive bringing over towels and cold water. There is a small, shaded children’s pool and close by there are changing rooms, lockers and toilets. I found the pool very peaceful on a morning and even though it slowly got busier it never felt really cramped or noisy.


​I also went to the indoor spa area which is absolutely stunning, it really did feel like an escape from crazy Cairo! Although I didn’t have a treatment ( I plan to do so next time) I used the indoor pool and Jacuzzi, there is also a sauna and steam rooms available. The staff here were warm and friendly, they offered to show me around but really I just wanted to lie down and nap!

I didn’t use the gym but, for a hotel, the Gym area looked very well equipped and not just an afterthought. It is certainly good enough for a workout for most people.

Food and drink – For me this was the most inconsistent and disappointing part of my stay. The kofta by the pool on my first day was deliciously fresh and tasty as was the pizza, so I would recommend eating here. 


However, when Greg came to join me for dinner and we ate at Lucca the Italian restaurant, it was nothing special. We decided to share the antipasta but on the menu there was no description of what this included. We asked and we were told it was grilled vegetables, seafood and cheese but when it arrived it seemed to be a rather odd mix of ‘bits’ with a pile of spinach to bulk it out. There were some prawns, a bit of pasta and veg but nothing that stood out or impressed us. It also tasted heavily of olives which neither of us like!


The main courses were below average in comparison to other Italian dishes we’ve had. My penne chicken with aubergine was definitely under cooked to the point I had to pull pasta out of my teeth, again it tasted very strongly of olives – this ingredient wasn’t listed on the menu.

img_9372Greg’s fish cannelloni was only just warm and again the pasta was under cooked. We decided not to stay for dessert. 

The first cheque that came wasn’t ours and we sent it back, the second cheque didn’t have the 15% discount which is applicable in all 3 restaurants. The manager told us that we couldn’t use the 15% on the a la carte menu but he was happy to do so on this occasion. However, we had been told by the front desk staff we could use it on any item. Throughout my stay it was clear the staff weren’t aware of the staycation offer and if they were there were mixed messages. Indeed, it took me 4 attempts and a trip to reception to get the voucher needed for the complimentary pizza as the staff didn’t know what I was talking about and I hadn’t been issued with it on check in.

We also went to 1897 Bar for drinks but it was very quiet and there wasn’t really much atmosphere. The prices in here are quite high and I wondered if this was a reason why it was empty? I did like the ‘gentleman’s club’ feel to the place though.

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Breakfast was an average hotel buffet. Fresh pastries, cheeses, meats, an egg station etc –  it was OK. I felt some of the food wasn’t replaced quickly and it would have been nice to have some healthier options such as smoothies and more fruit as this was quite limited. Service at breakfast was very good.



Check out  – As I had a late check out I was able to spend most of the day by the pool before coming back to pack which was a huge bonus. On check out my bag was taken so that it could be stored until I was ready to leave. I did ask to speak to the manager to clarify a few questions I had about the package as I felt that some staff didn’t know about the 15% off promotion, the complimentary pizza and as I hadn’t been upgraded I questioned if the hotel was full. After him ringing a few people it transpired he didn’t fully understand the package either! He was very nice about the points I raised and clarified the following for me;

  • If the package is booked through the hotel website  then if a room upgrade is available on check in it will be given. They did offer me an apology as I was not offered this.
  • The staycation package entitles you to 15% off in Romanov, Lucca and Yana restaurants – this is 15% off the whole bill.
  • The staycation package is available to everyone, not just Egyptian residents/citizens

Verdict  – I think the staycation package is an excellent deal and its something I would definitely recommend. I was really taken aback with how different the hotel looks inside in comparison to the outside. The staff were very good and the whole hotel was designed with attention to detail. My room was lovely, I really liked the mix of textures and fabrics and the way the room was laid out. The hotel facilities are excellent especially the pool and the spa, I came home feeling relaxed and happy. It wasn’t seamless, there were some problems, but if not many people are using the promotion this to some extent is understandable. I do feel that further training is needed for staff in the restaurants regarding the discount and I suggested that on check in someone who is staying on this package should get an envelope with the discount for the restaurants and spa and the pizza voucher as this would eliminate any confusion.

Would I go back? Yes, absolutely …maybe next time I will take Greg along and we would give the Italian a miss! So, if you’re looking for a weekend retreat, an escape from city life, this would be the perfect get away. Shortly after my stay I was sent a survey about my experience in which I highlighted all the points raised in this post.

Sofitel, Cairo Nile El Gezirah

Those of you who know Greg will confirm he isn’t the most patient of people but, when on the first night of a two night staycation, he asks to speak to the duty manager it means he’s really pissed off. There wasn’t a major incident that lead to him doing this, just a series of inconsistencies and frustrations that really shouldn’t happen when staying in a hotel by such a well-regarded brand as Accor. Due to the Islamic New Year we had a long weekend and decided to head into Cairo for a couple of nights. I chose the Sofitel, Cairo due to its location right on the Nile, the fact it was ‘buy a night get one free’ using an Entertainer but mainly because we’ve previously had such a good time at the Sofitel Abu Dhabi, Sofitel Palm Dubai and the Mercure Bloomsbury. London which is part of the same hotel group. Booking was very efficient, I made an enquiry through the Entertainer app and received a quote of $303 for 1 night in a luxury club room. Although I felt this price was pretty high I believed it would be value for money as the food in Sofitel club lounges is usually excellent and the general ‘Sofitel experience’ is good. Due to crazy Cairo traffic we were late arriving and on our confirmation email it said to call or our room may not be held. We rung a few times but nobody answered, luckily when we arrived our room was still available. We were checked in at the Club Lounge on floor 16 and we decided to stay here for drinks and a snack before going to our room.

​Located at the southern tip of Zamalek in downtown Cairo, the views from the lounge are impressive. To one side the sprawling city is clearly visible and, to the other, Cairo tower dominates the skyline.

View of Cairo Tower from the Sofitel

We felt the club lounge wasn’t as relaxing as other lounges I have been in, it definitely lacked comfort and atmosphere. The colours were very harsh and the table and chair set up felt too formal and not very ‘loungey’. The staff however were friendly and welcoming but they didn’t try to chat or engage with us as they were often behind the desk on their mobile phones.

Club Lounge, Sofitel Cairo

As we only had an hour left to make use of the complimentary drinks and food we ordered a beer and whiskey and went to get snacks. Unlike other club lounges the food offering was quite limited. For hot food there were thinly sliced chicken fillets and fish goujons but nothing to accompany them such as veg, rice, breads or salads. There were also some sandwiches which were a little dry. Those with a sweet tooth fared better with a selection of cakes, tasty donuts, dried fruits and nuts.

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After a couple of drinks and feeling a bit underwhelmed, we headed to our luxury club room on the 24th floor. The view from our balcony was fantastic, we could see right across the Nile and over the city.

View from 24th floor Sofitel Cairo

The luxury room was comfortable in fact it was quite spacious with a large bed, chaise lounge and a small desk.

Luxury Club Room, Sofitel Cairo
Luxury Club Room, Sofitel Cairo

We’d been left a handwritten note with a welcome tray with tasty sweet treats and a small banana milkshake.

Welcome note and tray, Sofitel Cairo

The bathroom, despite being compact, was very clean and although there was no separate shower the rainfall shower head over the bath looked great. We also had robes and slippers. Next to the bed was a pillow menu and a choice of scents for the turn down service.

Bathroom, luxury club room, Sofitel Cairo
Bathroom, luxury club room, Sofitel Cairo

We rung the club lounge to ask for fresh milk as they only had powdered milk which is disgusting in tea. We rung a couple of times but there was no answer, so in the end we called room service and within minutes a jug of fresh milk was delivered to our room. After a lovely cup of tea taking in the view from our balcony we slept soundly.

The room was very quiet and the bed was so comfortable it was hard to get up the next morning! Unfortunately when we woke it was a little hazy and we couldn’t see the pyramids from our room, so we went for breakfast hoping the sun would burn off the haze. We decided to have breakfast buffet in the main restaurant which has a lovely view over the Nile and the hotel gardens. We gave our room number and we were offered a table inside or on the terrace, we opted for inside. I was surprised we weren’t shown to a table, simply pointed in the direction of the dining room. It’s was quite difficult to know which tables were occupied so after a couple of circuits of the room we ended up asking which table was free. We ordered tea with cold milk and headed off to check out the buffet offering. There was quite a good selection from cold meats and cheeses, fresh fruit and yoghurt, cereals, pastries, hot items such as mushrooms and sausages, GF and organic options plus a live station cooking eggs.

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​Greg ordered an omelette with everything except chili and I ordered my favourite Arabic dish – shakshuka. I was encouraged by one of the staff to try some of the Egyptian dishes such as ful medames and I agreed, unfortunately despite waiting the dishes never appeared. When we got to our table we’d been given hot milk and Greg’s omelette was full of chili. My shakshuka didn’t resemble any shakshuka I’d had before, it was much more like scrambled egg. It was pretty disappointing and was left uneaten. Maybe Egyptian shakshuka is different?!

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After a rather lackluster breakfast we headed to our room (we still couldn’t see the pyramids) and got ready for our morning trip to Muhammad Ali Mosque which is definitely worth a visit. It is such an interesting place with incredible views and only a 15 minute taxi ride from the hotel.

Muhammad Ali Mosque, Cairo
Muhammad Ali Mosque,Cairo

On returning to our room we found that it had been made up, but the table I’d left pulled out and away from the wall so the tea and coffee stains could be removed, had simply been pushed back and the stains still there! The room still didn’t have Lanvin products as specified in the room information. The rainfall shower flooded the floor as the shower screen didn’t provide enough cover and, as the hairdryer was hard-wired into the bathroom, I couldn’t use it as the bathroom was so damp. I think after paying a $400 deposit a regular, stand alone hairdryer isn’t too much to ask for! We decided to relax by spending a couple of hours by the pool and when we arrived at midday there were no umbrellas available. The friendly member of staff set up a small cabana for us and said that once an umbrella became free we could move. Unfortunately he didn’t communicate this to his colleagues as shortly afterwards other people were given loungers and umbrellas before us!

Pool, Sofitel Cairo

Not to worry, the cabana was comfortable and the views from the pool across the Nile were stunning. The pool area isn’t very large but the temperature of the water and the design of the pool was good.

img_9148Feeling a little peckish we decided to order lunch. Greg really enjoyed his club sandwich but my Caesar salad was not very good. The lettuce had been almost shredded and bound in a thick mayonnaise rather than garlic. It was also missing anchovies which were listed on the menu, I didn’t eat much of it.

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Having spent a few hours by the pool we went back to our room to get ready for the evening. I was so happy to see a very faint outline of the pyramids from our room ………if I squinted really hard!

Can you see the pyramids yet? View from a ‘pyramid view room’ Sofitel Cairo

Again we rung for fresh milk and tea bags as they hadn’t been replaced when our room was made up. We called room service as we had the night before and I asked for 2 tea bags and a small jug of fresh milk. A few minutes later room service arrived with a pot of tea for 2, hot milk and a large glass of cold milk ……and a bill. I explained this was not what we’d asked for and he told me my problem was that we’d called room service not housekeeping. We politely explained back we only did what we had done the night before with no problems. He was very nice about it but clearly there was a communication issue. We then went to get a shower to discover our toiletries (still not Lanvin) had not been replaced. Sigh. We went up for drinks to the club lounge and again we were disappointed with the food on offer. I *think* there were small chicken drumsticks and maybe small lamb skewers plus the same sparse selection of sandwiches, pastries and fruit. This is definitely not consistent with other Sofitel club lounges where the food is more substantial. They did serve a very generous whiskey however!

​As we were still hungry we decided to go to Kebabgy, the oriental restaurant in the hotel. I’m not going to go to lots of detail other than to say the location was very nice, the restaurant well styled and the food, although tasty, was not very filling as the portion sizes were small. The photo is of the mixed grill for 1 person and 1 serving of shish kebab both served together.

Kebabgy, Cairo
Kebabgy, Sofitel Cairo

Whilst having dinner we were chatting about the hotel and I brought up the hotel website to check out the rooms on offer. It was then I read we were meant to have access to a butler – this was the first we’d heard about it! Also, I couldn’t find a price for a luxury club room anywhere near the $300 we’d been charged either on the Sofitel website or comparison sites……..maybe the holiday had hugely increased the cost of a room? On the way back to our room we decided to stop by reception and ask for a late check out the following day. The receptionist told us we should ask our butler – we told him we knew nothing about a butler this as we hadn’t been told. about this service. He said we should have been calling our butler if we needed anything during our stay! On return to our room we found we hadn’t had a turn down service (again) and had no fresh towels, toiletries or water. We rung the butler twice – he didn’t answer. We rung reception and we were cut off. We rung again and Greg, whilst trying to explain, was constantly interrupted. It was at this point Greg went to speak to the duty manager. He listened to Greg’s concerns and agreed these issues were not portraying the hotel in a good light. He assured us the manager would be notified about our concerns when he was back at work on Sunday. At 11pm that evening we received teabags, towels and toiletries!
The next morning we went to the club lounge for breakfast. There was a small buffet and items could also be chosen from the a la carte menu. Greg ordered a pepper omelette and a side of veal sausage, I ordered cheese omelette with sautéed potato and veal sausage. What we got wasn’t quite what we asked for – Greg got a mushroom, sausage and chili omelette with turkey and veal sausages on the side. I received a cheese omelette with veal and turkey sausage. I never received the potatoes. We were the only table in the lounge, how could they get this mixed up?! By now I was kind of losing the will to live, it was becoming a bit of a farce. The pastry basket was nice.

Breakfast, Sofitel Cairo

In the hope of getting an umbrella we headed to the pool early. As soon as we arrived Greg ordered a juice, which after 90 minutes still hadn’t arrived. To be honest we weren’t entirely surprised. Again, the pool and views were delightful.

Nile, Cairo

We decided to have lunch by the pool and I chose a dish I thought they couldn’t possibly get wrong – Greek salad (I asked for it minus the olives). Greg ordered pizza. I was being far too optimistic. The salad was wrong, very wrong. It was listed as having; cucumber, tomato, onion, red, green and yellow pepper, mint, feta and lemon dressing. What I actually got was; cucumber, tomato and white cheese – not even feta. No mint, no dressing. Oh, actually I also got lettuce which wasnt meant to be included. I did consider only paying 1/3 of the bill as I only received 1/3 of the ingredients but we thought it would be better leaving this until we talked to the manager on Sunday – you know, when we were told he would call. …………………….I left the salad but the birds seemed to enjoy it.

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Pizza

By now we were ready to leave. Our supposed ‘stress free relaxing weekend at a 5* hotel’ had turned into 2 days of poor communication, less than average food and numerous inconsistencies. I am so glad we had 241 on this room as even paying $300 for 2 nights (plus food/drinks) was not worth it. I actually apologized to Greg for booking the Sofitel as it fell well below our expectations. I don’t feel I can recommend this hotel to anyone unless maybe you get a rock bottom price and chose not to eat there. Although the staff were very friendly and apologetic when things went wrong I just don’t feel this was 5* service. I think the final straw was when we were asked on check out how our stay was I explained we’d ‘had some issues’ and we’d spoken to the duty manager. The member of staff just looked really uncomfortable and responded with ‘have a good flight’!!!!
On a more positive note I’m a huge fan of the Entertainer. I have saved thousands of £’s using it over the last 3 years. I thought when I left Qatar it would be redundant but no, we can still get 241 stays on hotels worldwide. So, even if you are in a country where you can’t use the Entertainer for services, it’s still worth buying as you can make quite a lot of savings on hotel stays. Here’s a screenshot of countries where hotels have signed up to the Entertainer. Any questions please just ask in the comments section below.

The Tap East, New Cairo

Having lived in West Bay for 3 years surrounded by bars, cafes and restaurants moving to Rehab has been a big change. I definitely think we’ve made the right choice but I do miss being able to walk across the road to Quickbites or next door to Prime! In a search for a new ‘local’ Greg found The Tap East, marketed as a ‘Neighbourhood Bar’ we thought we’d go and check it out and I reserved a table through their website which was very efficient. It was fairly quiet when we arrived but we immediately felt welcome.

I would describe the decor as industrial meets American Diner. The exposed brick walls have small recessed TVs and there’s a variety of red leather booths, steel tables and stools with a large central bar displaying their ‘towers of beer’. Wall murals of Audrey Hepburn and Jim Morrison provide a backdrop to the area by the mixing decks and stage (there is live music most nights). There’s also a large outside terrace which will be great when it’s cooler. The menu was pretty good too, a wide selection of bar snacks and main meals. I was pleasantly surprised to see imported drinks too such as Newcastle Brown Ale! ​

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​We decided to share the nachos as an appetiser and I ordered the buffalo chicken salad for my main with Greg choosing the boneless BBQ rib sandwich along with a couple of bottles of Desparados. As we waited for our food we spent most of the time shazaming the soundtrack which was excellent and create a cool, laid back atmosphere. Mustafa, member of staff, also came over for a quick chat to find out where were from and what we thought of the bar – everyone was really friendly. Soon our nachos arrived and they were a good portion size for sharing. There was a good balance of melted cheese to nacho with a splattering of beef chili and sides of salsa and sour cream. Unfortunately shortly after we started tucking in to them our main courses were brought out. I find this a bit frustrating especially when we specified we wanted an appetiser followed by mains. 

My buffalo chicken salad was really tasty and just on the right side of spicy for my taste. I did think there was a little too much lettuce but that’s probably because I don’t particularly like it! The salad was nicely presented and the vegetables were crunchy and fresh.

Greg really enjoyed his rib sandwich. Again there was a generous portion of tender beef in a fresh bun with a tangy BBQ sauce served with crunchy fries and creamy coleslaw. Overall the food was good, solid bar food.

After a couple more drinks we asked for the bill and left very happy that we’d found a new ‘local’ and of course, survived our first month in Cairo!

​We paid just under 700LE in total for our food and drinks which was reasonable value. I’d like to go back again when it’s a bit busier, maybe when there’s a band on. Overall we enjoyed our night.

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The Smokery, Katameya Heights

When you’re new to a country how do you find out about good places to eat? For me I usually check out Trip Advisor, read blog posts and google reviews. Here in Egypt there’s El Menus which is similar to Zomato, a webiste I relied on a lot in Qatar. Having carried out my due diligence and read great reviews I reserved a table at The Smokery in Katameya Heights for a night out. We eventually arrived just after 5pm after a scenic detour thanks to Uber!

You know the feeling when you make a reservation and walk into an empty restaurant? Yeh, that’s exactly what happened. We assumed it would get busier later on and we were shown to our table by the hostess who told us we had the table ‘with the best view’. It was pretty; the weather was perfect and it was nice to sit outside overlooking the golf course and lake. We were quickly brought the menu and hopes were high it was going to be a lovely evening.


The menu written, in English and French, was extensive and the food sounded delicious. We took a while to decide what to have but the staff didn’t seem to mind as they were setting up for the evening and, as the only customers, we didn’t feel rushed at all.


We decided to share a couple of appetizers and have a main course each. Our drinks were brought over but there was no interaction at all from the waiter. I know due to language barriers communication isn’t always easy, but a smile wouldn’t have gone amiss. We placed our food orders and again no interaction other than to repeat our order back to us.


After waiting about 10 minutes our appetizers were placed in front of us in silence. The chicken satay was ok. It was lukewarm and the sauce wasn’t particularly flavoursome, the chicken was also fairly dry. The tempura shrimp faired a little better, the plump shrimp were hot and crispy and the chili sauce packed a punch. It was just a bit ‘standard’ I think from the reviews I had higher expectations. We assured each other the mains would be better!


After a suitable wait our plates were removed, again in silence, and our main courses were brought out. I thought my quinoa salad with salmon was well presented but unfortunately it didn’t taste as good as it looked. The quinoa had no taste and the ‘julienne vegetables’ (carrot and cucumber) didn’t add any texture. The salmon was tasty but very rich as there was nothing sharp to cut through the smokiness of the dish and it was just a bit bland and…….boring!


Greg was happier with his surf n turf. The steak was cooked medium as requested and the potatoes were well seasoned, the shrimp were really tasty. However there was a big jump in price from the steak to the surf n turf and he didn’t feel the 2 prawns were worth the extra cost. He also felt it the dish should have had some veg.


Our plates were removed in silence, no enquiry if we enjoyed our meal or any smile or acknowledgment. By this point 2 more tables were occupied but there wasn’t really any atmosphere apart from the staff coming and going on golf buggys. We decided against dessert or more drinks and asked for the bill. At this point a manager came and told us there was a problem with the till and our bill was hand written. Even he didn’t ask about our meal or show any interest in our visit.


We left a little over an hour after we arrived. As we left we walked past 3 members of staff and then the manager – not a single person said goodbye or even glanced at us! Unfortunately for us The Smokery was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, as other people had reviewed, the setting is lovely but in my opinion the food and service has got to match and for us it sadly didn’t. It wasn’t representative of the warm and friendly service we’ve experienced during our time in Cairo so far. Would I go back? I doubt we would eat there again but it is a nice spot for drink so I won’t rule out a return visit completely.

UPDATE – Sept 2017

The Smokery have been in touch with me, keen to find out more about my visit. It was really nice to speak to the Operations Manager and discuss some of the points I raised. He was very keen to emphasise that our experience certainly isn’t what customers should expect, we’ve been invited back for dinner. I’ll update this post again if we return. I thought it was really good of them to contact me – things don’t always go right but I feel they’re trying to make amends.