Arij is a tiny, family-run restaurant that’s inconspicuously located on El Nagar Street in Dokki. The restaurant isn’t pleasant on the eye, but it’s one of the only places in Cairo serving eastern Sudanese cuisine with some Ethiopian flavours. The highlight of its banquets is the delicious pancake-like flatbread, which is a perfect substitute for cutlery when scooping the food from plate to mouth. The dishes and venue are far from fancy, so if you’re looking for a rustic eastern Sudanese eatery, Arij is the place to go.
We faced all the usual navigational hurdles trying to locate the restaurant, including a lack of sign-posting, no street numbers and signage in Arabic. This tiny place has a nondescript entrance that’s easy to miss along the dimly-lit, narrow street. So look out for a small, electronic sign in Arabic above the hole-in-the-wall, about 50 metres on your left from El Tahrir Street. Use the Google Maps pin below for the exact location.
In contrast to the discreet entrance, we stepped inside to find the owners and staff chatting animatedly and welcoming us in with open arms. The colourfully-dressed matriarch of the family was particularly affable and demanded photos with us. We were guided to a table, not that we needed any guiding because the dining area’s miniscule with about five small tables. We sat in the back corner, flanked by dark brown walls, a couple of old fans, a television blaring, and dim-lighting. It was cosy (one might say cramped), so it may get stifling hot during summer.
The dishes are designed for sharing, so we opted for five vegetarian and two meat dishes, a fresh salad and bread for our group of eight people, which was more than enough. The spongy Sudanese bread is an essential component, so ask if they have plenty when you arrive! To our utter dismay, they ran out of the flatbread during our dinner, and we had to make do with bland, white-bread baguettes to scrape up the remaining morsels.
We were served lentil Fattah (similar to dahl), spiced bean curry, molokhiya, a spinach dish known as rigleh, potatoes with minced meat, a diced sweet potato and parsnip dish, and a spicy, tomato-based beef stew served in a bowl upon fried flatbread. They were all simple, with only a few ingredients, but hearty and fresh. The downfall of our order was the selection of only curry-like, mushy-textured dishes, which we should have mixed up with the eggplant salad, chopped okra, grilled beef or roasted chicken dishes on the menu. Nevertheless, we leant back in our chairs afterwards to recover from the considerable amount of food devoured, feeling satisfied.
Overall, the highlights were getting a taste of eastern Sudanese cuisine and devouring Sudanese flatbread. The two clear winners of the banquet (apart from the bread) were the spiced bean curry and lentil fattah.
The staff were really friendly (as well as apologetic for running out of flatbread) and charged us a mere 30 LE per person for the banquet and soft-drinks.
Address: 2 El Nagar Street, Dokki, above Abo Abaya
Meals: 30-50 LE per person for a banquet
Opening hours: 12pm - 12am
Google maps pin: Arij Sudanese Restaurant location