The nightlife game in Egypt is a tricky one; it's a path fraught with potholes, booby traps and the kind of middle-finger surprise that only Om El Donia can give you. There have, of course, been some remarkable success stories, such as Cairo Jazz Club and The Tap, and Downtown's balady bars are alive and well; but we've also lost some truly great bars by the wayside
Located in Dokki's sleepy Amman Square, Alchemy's closure was a shock to all. Born of the same minds that have made Cairo Jazz Club the nightlife institution it is today, Alchemy had it all: fantastic food, creative cocktails and one of the most unique interior decors around - remember those hundreds of ghoulish faces? Remember the funky theme nights? Good lord, they even used to host exhibitions. But alas, Cairo never fully embraced it. Sigh.
Maybe we're being a little over the top, but up until it's police-forced closure, La Bodega was something of a landmark in Zamalek - one that took the best of the island's 'old money' aesthetic perfectly, but without the stuffiness of similarly inspired bars and restaurants in the area. La Bodega's spirit lives on in Sahel and the neighbouring Apperetivo, as well as La Bodega's new branch in 6th of October, but its just not the same #sadface. In saying that though, U Bistro has emerged from the ashes to become one of the best restaurants in Zamalek. So there's that.
There exists a cluster of bars and restaurants in and around the New President Hotel in Zamalek that has been home to some of the best go-to spots in the capital - but it's also seen several concepts fail, the first of which on this list is Bar D'O. Maybe it was because it failed to attract the kind of high-brow clientele it was aiming for, instead of its too-cool-for-school, hipster-ish guys and gals that did enjoy it? One could even argue that its sub-concept, Bar Tabac, and its failure to inspire was the final nail in the coffin. Whatever the case, it was one of the most unique bars in Cairo.
Founded by a bunch of Supreme-wearing, music-making experimentalists, VENT actually lasted longer than anyone expected. Egypt often rejects what it doesn't understand, but for a good while, the Downtown bar carved out a nice little niche for itself by hosting the city's more unknown acts, boozy film-screenings and other culturally enriching events. The VENT name still exists as an entity and said Supreme-wearing, music-making experimentalists initially created independent music events, but as of now, VENT is in bar heaven.
Now, the last time yours truly went to Amici Zamalek, there was what seemed like a kid's teenage birthday party in there and very loud shaabi music. It was a far cry from what was once universally acclaimed as having the best cocktails - the bar was on its last legs. But we like to remember Amici as a sleek, sophisticated yet casual bar.
Hold on a second, before you roll your eyes. Yes, Tamarai was as much hated as it was loved; the high-end exclusivity turned as many people away as it attracted. But outside of the city's hotels, what bar can match it? None, is the answer. Even the bar that replaced it, TIU, died a slow, uneventful death and the latest bar to take its place, Nineteen Twenty Five, can't capture anything like its essence. The closest thing you'll find to Tamarai these days is, of course, 6IX Degrees, up north - that's if you can stomach the full-make-up-and-heels look in Sahel.
By Haisam Awad