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Café Riche, Cairo

17 Talaat Harb Street
Egypt 11111
Tel: 20 2 392 9793's insider take:

First opened in 1908, and renovated in 2007, the Café Riche is a time capsule of Cairo salon society that has survived the schizophrenic deluge of American fast-food joints and Islamic fundamentalism in the city's European downtown. The walls are covered with caricatures and old black-and-white photos of Cairo notables, and the simple menu of grilled meats and Egyptian salads has hardly changed since literary lions—Naguib Mahfouz, Taha Hussein, and Ahmed Fouad Negm among them—held weekly public meetings here. The curmudgeonly owner acts as bouncer, refusing to let tour groups inside. However, he welcomes anyone with an appreciation of Cairo history. Ask Filfil, the maître d' who has worked here since 1943, to show you the secret escape hatch in the downstairs bar used by such revolutionary plotters as the early-20th-century nationalist Sa'd Zaghloul and Egypt's first president, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Open daily from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm.

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