Some people call it a tent, other people call it a kheima; personally, I prefer to call it a fabric fortress. Whatever the case, tents are big business in Cairo during Ramadan and, this year, there’s no shortage of choices. Their popularity comes as no surprise; everything about a kheima appeals to Cairene sensibilities; there’s food, there’s entertainment, there’s shisha, there’s antakha and there’s the safety and comfort of being in a fortress.
From Downtown, to Zamalek, to Heliopolis, this year’s tents are stepping things up more than an Egyptian mother who just caught wind of her neighbours buying an expensive new couch and we’ve rounded up the best of the best of the best – BEHOLD.
A giant in the kheima game – yeah, there’s a kheima game – Si Omar is a staple of Ramadan in Cairo. Taking over Fairmont Heliopolis & Towers once more, a feast for the senses awaits behind all those sponsor logos. By far the biggest tent – in every sense of the word – of its kind in that distant land they call Masr El Gedida, visitors can indulge in either iftar or sohour, with all the typical Ramadan trimmings. Call 16989 for reservations.
A kheima called Som3a Basha at a palace-turned-hotel that was built for Ismaeil Pasha? Ah, I see what you’ve done there – clever, very clever. Anyway, with plenty going on at the Cairo Marriott in Zamalek this year, the jewel of the hotel’s Ramadan crown is its tent – which in turn has plenty going on within itself. The most intriguing, chin-stroking element of Som3a Basha has to be its sohour buffet, which will set up several live cooking stations dishing out traditional Egyptian street food. Expect live entertainment and other visual and culinary delights.
Event Republic is set to make a ceaseless transition from the marauding nightlife colossus that is the ever popular In the City series, to annual Ramadan kheima, Wahawi. Different from the many other Ramadan tents that pop-up across the city’s skyline, Wahawi can essentially be whatever you want it to be – board games? Check. Playing cards and backgammon? Check? Playstations? Check. This is taking too long, so let’s cut this short – it’s like being in your living room. But with a Nile View and nobody expecting you to help wash-up afterwards. For reservations, call 0100-294-7111.
When life gives you lemons – nah, I’m kidding. It’s too obvious and I don’t even have a solid joke. Playground for the young and slightly-overdressed, the Lemon Tree & Co, isn’t necessarily the first place in Cairo that you’d peg down for going all out during Ramadan, but for the second year running, the Nile-side lounge-come-bar-come-restaurant-come-citrus-fruit-tree-garden, is re-erecting its kheima, Lemonada. Lips are sealed firmer than that of a toddler sucking on a lemon, but with top food, top shisha, top views and the top floor, it sells itself. Call 0100-222-3999 for reservations.
I like Fairmont City – they’re good people and they never miss out on occasion. After taking many back to their childhoods with an El Leila El Kebira themed tent in 2014, this year FNC are doing things in more chilled fashion as open air restaurant, Bab El Nil, transforms into the hotel’s take the traditional kheima. It feels like Ramadan at Bab El Nil most of the time as it is, which bodes well for the Holy Month. Expect to be spoiled like a cranky Sultan, with the set-up offering good food, good shisha and a personal TV for every table to ensure your soap opera yearnings are met in style. Call 02-2461-9494.
Widely considered the first Ramadan kheima – though one could pretentiously and pedantically argue that our ancestors were breaking their fast and inhaling fumes through pipes hundreds of years ago – Ramadana is the brainchild of advertising and marketing Goliath, Tarek Nour, and this year it is set to take place at Zamalek’s Riverside. A veritable nucleus for celebrities during the Holy Month, expect this to be Ramadan done in the grandest of ways, as Cairenes flock to it like moths to a fanous. Call 0121-280-1290 for reservations.
Giza hotel, Four Seasons First Residence, is hammering in its tent pegs for the return of one of the more chic kheimas in Cairo, La Gourmandise. There are other Ramadan options at what is one of the more intimate big hotels, but La Gourmandise stands as one of the most popular tents in the city, bringing together the polish and service of a world-class hotel and the informality of late Ramadan nights. For reservations, call 02-3567-2015.
I’m hungry. Stay tuned for more righteous Ramadan revelry throughout the month.
By Hungry, Hungry Haisam Awad