Horreya meets Egypt’s reputation for bad service with one of the worst possible interpretations of good service. Perhaps that’s why it’s so great. If you like a simple bar to drink cheaply, smoke heavily and solve the world’s problems, Horreya is Cairo’s paradise.
Bottles of Stella appear in front of your face without warning, often before you’ve had a proper chance to sit down. Don’t think, just grab on. The hand holding the Stella probably belongs to Milad, Horreya’s chief waiter, who’s also got a bottle opener on the cap, ready for dismount. While most Egyptian waiters take a “Don’t ask, don’t serve” approach, Horreya’s waiters don’t ask, but at least they serve. Relentlessly, in fact. Bottles pile up on the table at great speed.
Try to keep toilet trips to a minimum, they’re terrible. Well, at least the men’s are. Almost as terrible as Milad’s sense of humour. On one occasion, upon seeing a container of Nestle’s Nesquik on the table, Milad gestured to his crotch as a suggestion of where the patrons might find some milk. Unsurprisingly, the ratio of men to women is often at least 10-1; so, if you’re a lady, do bring some male company.
These flaws even role of the backs of women during a solid Horreya session. It sits in Downtown Cairo, just 500 metres to the east of Tahrir Square, where the January 25 revolutions took place. While ‘tahrir’ means liberation, ‘horreya’ means freedom. It’s a place where Egypt’s politically minded have mixed with a sprinkling of expats to talk about politics, art, sport and of everyday bullshit for decades. Ahmed Hassan, the central character of the Jehane Noujaim Academy Award nominated documentary The Square, frequents Horreya quite regularly.
If your shoes are a little scuffed from Cairo’s streets, there’s a lovely man who will shine them for you for a small fee.
If you need a dose of oil and fat to soak up the beer in your belly, there’s a hub for Egyptian street food next door that you’ll relish.
If you plan on leaving before the rest of your group, flag down the waiter and pay for your bottles. They don’t like people leaving halfway through a session. And if you don’t drink alcohol, they serve tea and soft drinks.