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City Breaks

El Maadi: Cairo’s Hippest Neighbourhood

There’s a calm cool about El Maadi, Cairo. It’s evident in the buzzing co-working spaces and in the coffee shops serving cortados and cold brews, under a canopy of leaves. 

It’s in the tree-lined streets, and the independent restaurants with menus ranging from molokhia to tapas, bao buns to croissants.


In Cairo, the closest rival on the cool-factor stakes is Zamalek: equally fashionable, but in a more polished way. Think of El Maadi as the trendier, younger sibling. A place to visit for independent stores, family-run restaurants, and cafés serving home-brewed coffee, each frequented by stylish young professionals.

It’s also peaceful. Only after you’ve experienced the somewhat chaotic city, abuzz with car horns and awash with crowds, will you appreciate the relative serenity in El Maadi. After pounding the streets of Downtown Cairo, ticking off tourist attractions including the Egyptian Museum, Cairo Tower and Tahrir Square, El Maadi is a tree-lined haven to return to. You may not find any roses in El Maadi, but you will find plenty of places to stop and smell the blossom, eucalyptus and mulberry trees that line the streets, sharing their shade with passers-by.


STAY

Villa Belle Epoque

Hotel choices in El Maadi are limited. But, when somewhere like Villa Belle Epoque exists, you won’t need to look elsewhere. Ticking all the hip and peaceful boxes, Villa Belle Epoque is a family-run boutique hotel comprising two early 1900’s villas surrounded in lush gardens overflowing with olive, lemon, and mango trees. Packed with carefully sourced antique furniture as well as paintings by up-and-coming Arab artists, no two bedrooms are the same. Request the Edfu room, named after a city on the banks of the Nile. This spacious double room on the ground floor looks out across the pool and gardens, and is fitted with not only a writing desk, but a day bed for catching up on your holiday reading, too.

 

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EAT+ DRINK

Breakfast + Coffee

Ratios Bakery

Visit early if you want your choice of seat in their tree-lined garden. The crowds arrive from 8AM and they’re here for the home-brewed cold coffee, the freshly-baked (on site, each morning) artisan bread, and the array of pastries made with French butter. Delicious.

 

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Dark Solution Coffee 

Sleek and sexy, decked out in an all black finish, Dark Solution Coffee is a javaphile’s dream. Opt for a hard-hitting espresso or classic cortado, or, for something more creative try the pistachio latte. Pair with a bagel or a slice of the halwa cake and a good book, and settle in for a few hours of morning bliss.

 

Osana Family Wellness Café

It’s hard to define Osana Family Wellness, though there’s a clue (partly) in the name. This is a holistic wellbeing centre offering a variety of treatments but, as is often the case with wellbeing centres, they also know good food. Visit for a wholesome sandwich or breakfast bowl. In the cooler months, make yourself comfortable on one of the outdoor tables to enjoy a fresh juice or coffee in their expansive gardens, overflowing with greenery. 

 

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Lunch + Dinner

Tawlet Yvonne 

Spread across an old villa; fairy lights twinkling in the garden as crowds of friends and family fill the tables underneath them. Tawlet Yvonne is one of those places that you may not have plans to visit, but the second you see it, you know you need to be a part of it. Exuding all the good parts of dining: shared joy, comfort, and home-cooked food, the Lebanese dishes here are next to none. Settle in for an evening of conversation over molokhia, warak enab, and big bowls of hummus.

 

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Kebda Al Keif

If you really want to immerse yourself into the Egyptian way of eating, visit Kebda el Keif on Street 50. A long-time favourite with the people of Alexandria (on Egypt’s north coast) the restaurant has recently brought its dishes to Cairo by way of two stores, both in El Maadi. A clue to the menu is in the name. Kebda means liver in Egyptian Arabic, and you’ll find it served in sandwiches and pasta. With prices starting at 6 Egyptian Pounds (27p) this is likely the cheapest meal you’ll eat during your time in El Maadi. 

Sincerely V 

What started as a passion, quickly turned into a business for founder, Victoria Diachkova. A certified health coach – amongst many other nutritional qualifications – she began a food blog in 2016 and, due to the popularity it gained, opened Sincerely V in late 2019. Her plant-based dishes include pancakes topped with mango or nuts for breakfast, falafel wraps for lunch, and quesadillas or Vietnamese rainbow rolls anytime of day. The menu is also available for delivery.

 

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Camelia Sweets

Save room for dessert, and make sure it’s at Camelia Sweets. This food truck serves just three desserts: Greek Loukoumades, waffles and pancakes. Here, the loukoumades – fried dough, sweetened with sugar and syrup – is served with pistachio, honey, Nutella or lotus. Founder, Camelia Malek, opened up shop in early 2022, and it’s already a staple on the El Maadi foodie trail.


TO DO

Art Galleries 

In a district that is both home to and frequented by creatives, it’s no surprise that El Maadi has plenty happening in its art scene. Multiple galleries and exhibitions take place throughout the year, examining art through the lenses of drawing, painting, installation, sculpture, photography, and more. Arcade showcases contemporary art, Gypsum represents 11 artists living between the Middle East, the USA and Europe whose work focuses on social and political matters, and Gallery Art Mazag is a space for upcoming Egyptian artists to present their work.

 

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Massage and Energy Healing 

With an extensive treatment menu offering mind, body and spirit work, including everything from reiki and soul reading to massage and traditional Islamic healing, Osana is a go-to for healing, not only in El Maadi but in all of Cairo. Combine it with a fresh juice and a salad bowl, or scrambled tofu for the ultimate recharge.

 

Felucca Ride on the Nile 

Setting sail from Marsa Hakwai, a felucca ride along the Nile is a must while in Cairo. The section of the river that borders El Maadi is one of the most scenic places to do so. Arrive just before sunset for the perfect sail; one in which you’ll watch as the sun sets behind the western banks of the river Nile, projecting its pastel colours up into the dusk sky, before settling into a still and enchanting darkness. An hour’s sail will cost you about £9.00 plus tip, and is the perfect place to read a book, doodle in a sketch pad, or simply sit and soak up the views. Head to Maadi Al Khabiri, Ash Sharqeyah to start your sail. 

 

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Co-working: Osana and KMT House 

Remember those stylish young professionals who have made El Maadi home? You’ll find many of them at one of these two co-working spaces which also happen to be a one minute walk from each other. At Osana, you can come for coffee and use the Wifi, while at KMT you’ll need to buy a day pass. If you spend long at either you’re almost certain to strike up a conversation with someone interesting at a nearby table.

 

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The Pyramids

We appreciate that no trip to Cairo would be complete without seeing the Pyramids and, while this is doable in a day from El Maadi, we suggest you stay overnight in Giza. Not least because waking up in the morning from a hotel with a Pyramid view is an experience like no other. There are plenty of hotel options in the area, but we suggest you stay at the best: Marriott Mena House. Not only will you get those unbeatable views (ask for a room with a pyramid view), but a cooling swimming pool, and an excellent choice of restaurants to come back to after a long day exploring. 

 

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If you’re spending more than one night in the Giza area, head to Sakkara Country Club for a pool day. For 450 Egyptian Pounds (GBP 20) you can spend the day between sun-lounger and swimming pool, along with some well-heeled (or in this case, well-swimsuited) Cairenes.

What to Pack

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