CAIRO — Apart from noisy discotheques or hotel bars, where the atmosphere can be formal, Cairo has few bars where one can unwind and chat with friends. The dearth of English-style pubs and American neighborhood bars most likely is due to the fact that, because of Islamic proscription of alcohol, relatively few Egyptians drink.
However, every rule has its exceptions, and one of the most pleasant exceptions in Cairo is the Cairo Cellar, which caters to a small but loyal crowd of young, upper-class Egyptians and resident foreigners, including diplomats from a number of nearby embassies.
Situated in the basement of the President Hotel on Zamalek, an island in the Nile, the 5-year-old Cairo Cellar was one of the first pub-style bars to open in Cairo. Its decor, vaguely reminiscent of a European wine cellar, features low ceilings, dark wooden beams, hanging copper pots and a distinctive, U-shaped bar built on top of more than 1,000 old wine bottles. The atmosphere is cool and dark and makes for a pleasant retreat from the hot and dusty streets of Cairo.
Open seven days a week, from noon to 2 a.m., the Cellar serves lunch and dinner and a full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The liquor is imported, but the wine and beer are local. Prices range from about $2 for a glass of whiskey to $38 for a bottle. The local wine, at about $4 a bottle, is drinkable, but connoisseurs are advised to choose beer to avoid disappointment.