After dinner it's de rigueur to spend a lazy evening in a city-centre cafe watching the world go by, but those looking for an alcoholic tipple have relatively little choice. Sixty years ago Alexandria was so famous for its watering holes that the 1958 film Ice Cold in Alex was based on a stranded WWII ambulance crew dreaming of making it back to Alexandria to sip a beer.
Cafes & Ahwas
During summer the 20km length of the Corniche from Ras El Tin to Montazah seems to become one great strung-out ahwa (coffeehouse). With a few exceptions, these are not the greatest places – they’re catering for a passing holiday trade and tend to overcharge. Nevertheless, Alexandria is a great place to get in some quality shisha time.
Solo women should note that many of Alex's backstreet ahwas remain the exclusive domain of backgammon-playing men. The majority along the Corniche are women- and family-friendly.
Don't Miss: Cafe Culture
Alexandria is a cafe town – and we’re not talking Starbucks double-decaf-soy-low-fat-vanilla-grande lattes. Ever since the early 1900s, Alexandria’s culture has revolved around cafes, where the city’s diverse population congregated to live out life’s dramas over pastries and a cup of tea or coffee. Famous literary figures met here, chattering and pondering the city they could not quite grasp. Many of these old haunts remain, and even though the food and drink in many aren't up to scratch, they are definitely worth a visit, to experience them as living relics of times past and to catch a glimpse of their grand decor. Here’s a run-down of classic java joints where you can get a sip of the old days.
- Delices This old tea room has been in business since 1922 and is the place to come for tea and cake. Although much of its original grandeur has been scrubbed away, its high-ceilinged halls still exude a sense of old-world atmosphere. The patisserie here once supplied Egypt's royalty, and the cafe was a favourite haunt of Allied soldiers during WWII. On a hot day, order the speciality Deliccino drink (ice cream and espresso milkshake). There's also a full menu of crêpes, pasta and sandwiches.
- Sofianopoulos Coffee Store You can smell the coffee from half a block away. This old-fashioned coffee retailer would be in a museum anywhere else in the world. Dominated by huge silver coffee grinders, stacks of glossy beans and the wonderful, faintly herbal aroma of roasted java, it's caffeine heaven and it serves coffee fit for a king.
- Trianon This was a favourite haunt of the Greek poet Cavafy, who worked in offices on the floor above. Stop here to admire the 1930s grandeur of its sensational ornate ceiling and faded but still glorious wall panels. Grab a slice of something from the patisserie selection, order a juice (the coffee here is underwhelming), and soak up the historic atmosphere.
- Athineos Opposite Midan Ramla, this place lives and breathes nostalgia. The cafe part still has some of its original 1940s fittings and pastries that taste like they’ve been sitting around since then, but most of it has had a painful revamp.
- Brazilian Coffeestore This coffee store from 1929 has been revamped but retains its old-world atmosphere and makes a wicked espresso.