Cairo’s array of rooftops has something for everyone – whether you want something cheap, something upscale, something sketchy or something ooh-la-la, you’ll find at least one place that suits your fancy in the list below.
1. Rooftop (Nile Zamalek Hotel, Zamalek)
A personal favorite. Those thinking Rooftop’s founders gave zero f*cks when thinking up a venue name must be forgiven, because while it appears that way, its original name was Pour Vous. The gracious French name was in sore juxtaposition with the reality of the place – while the views are spectacular and the prices cheap, there was nary a thing fancy or French about the place. Rooftop rests on top of the sketchballs Nile Zamalek Hotel, and everything from the entrance of the 2-star hotel to the tinny (and always interrupted) “My Heart Will Go On” music in the elevator screams “This place is going to suck!”
But once you climb the stairs to the actual roof, you’ll quickly discover the venue’s charm. The Nile sweeps past the hotel, and there are unobstructed views galore. The weather is instantaneously better than it was downstairs when you were parking your car. They serve local beer, wine and those ubiquitous carbonated drinks like ID Edge and Butler’s, as well as shisha. They have a menu but I wouldn’t recommend eating there unless you’re starving – and in that case, go for the better-safe-than-sorry vegetable spring rolls and/or fries. There’s also a Chinese restaurant downstairs that not’s bad you can order from, just ask the waiter for the “أكل صيني” menu.
Pros: the view and very reasonable prices. A fantastic day destination as well.
Cons: the hotel entrance and the disgusto bathrooms. Also the service suffers if it’s crowded.
2. Dos Cañas (Garden City)
Garnering its name from a small beer found in Southern Spain, Dos Cañas is a gorgeous tapas restaurant/bar high above Garden City, with a stunning view of the Nile and Zamalek. And let me tell you, it better be gorgeous because they sure do make you pay for it. It’s in the same nondescript building as the Cairo Capital Club and Dos Cañas’ sister restaurant, Loft 21. The restaurant itself keeps things simple when it comes to atmosphere and décor – understated wooden tables and chairs and ambient music.
Tapas are Spanish small plates or nibbles meant to be eaten alongside your drink(s) of choice – a few examples of their menu would be Ceviche (fresh fish, shrimp and lime); Potatas Bravas Bombay City (potatoes, cumin, turmeric and garlic); Beef Mishkaki with peri peri sauce and Crispy Seven Spices Lamb. The star of their drink menu is the sangria and they also have a cocktail list. Let me be honest here: you’re going to pay a bomb for very small plates, but you need to go and experience Dos Cañas at least once.
Pros: the food is good and the view beautiful.
Cons: you need to reserve, there’s a minimum of 350 egp per person (really? Minimum charges are still a thing?) and the menu prices.
3. Karvin (Heliopolis)
A staple for the Heliopolis crowd. Karvin Rooftop is on top of its namesake, the Karvin Hotel in Almazah. Both the hotel and rooftop are modest when it comes to décor, aka don’t expect anything near fancy. They have local alcohol and shisha, and the service is pretty good. There’s not much of a view –there’s a trellis with greenery (no idea if real or fake if you want me to be honest) blocking most of the “view”, which to be fair is just a bunch of buildings.
I’ve never attempted to eat the rooftop’s own food, but that’s because they have a great Indian restaurant called Massala right underneath. Pretty impressive restaurant for a 3-star hotel, I’ll tell you that much. They deliver the Indian food right up to you in the rooftop so you can enjoy it with your shisha and beer.
Pros: cheap and cheery.
Cons: there are several TVs which blast out at you. And don’t bother going if you have to sit inside.
4. Nomad (King Hotel, Dokki)
Rooftops on 2 and 3-star hotels in Egypt seem to be a recurring pattern, but I’m not mad at it. Nomad has been around forever and is the crown on little-known King Hotel’s head. It’s clean and simple, with drinks and shisha and a nice urban view.
The food is actually not bad there – stick to small dishes like the fried zucchini and you won’t be disappointed. Prices are decent and it’s never crowded. If you’re in the area and feel like all you’re doing is choking on car fumes, it’s a nice haven up above it all.
Pros: it’s one of the few options in the Dokki/Mohandiseen area.
Cons: limited parking and Mohandiseen has basically just become one huge gridlock.
4. Carlton (Downtown)
Not to be confused with Karvin in Helio, this 3-star Wust el Balad hotel is hidden in a small street next to the High Court of Justice (دار القضاء العالي). Carlton Hotel was probably a nice hotel back in Cairo’s belle époque (it opened in 1935) but now it’s definitely experiencing its shabbier days.
Carlton Rooftop is a simple affair, with a nice mix of people in attendance – foreigners, Downtown hipsters, regular people just looking for a shisha and a drink after a long day at work. The view is of the impressive High Court building which lights up at night. Little trees line the terrace walls to provide a little greenery for the eyes.
Pros: affordable and not as sketchy as other downtown bars.
Cons: hard to find even if you have the directions.
6. El Tonsy (Dokki)
High up on top of the Tonsy Hotel in Dokki is a rooftop bar, and to be honest I’m not sure if it has its own name or not, but for the time being, let’s just call it El Tonsy. The hotel itself is big but usually empty, and it’s not unusual to feel a tad creeped out as you head up to the rooftop. But it’s worth it once you’re at the top — great breeze and a Nile view. This rooftop bar also offers shisha and is 24/7, which is both a good and a bad thing; good if you want a place to chill at 4 in the morning, bad because you never know who else will be chilling there at 4 in the morning. Great place to people-watch late at night though.
Pros: it’s 24/7.
Cons: it’s 24/7.