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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Egypt's famous Cafe Riche for coffee, art and literature, to re-open in 2 weeks

November 7, 2008

by Suzan Abrams

Once an exciting meeting place for intellectuals to hover over a delicous cuppa, the Daily News Egypt reported yesterday that the famous Cafe Riche first founded in 1908 and soon to celebrate its 100th anniversary, after having long shut its doors, will re-open to an eagerly waiting public, in a fortnight's time.

The journalist Chitra Kalyani starts her interesting article by mischeviously challenging the reader as to any form of excitement that would be most likely to prevail if in the event, the reader and soon to turn connoisseur of exotic brews, could visit the homes of Naguib Mahfouz, Om Kolthoum, Taha Hussein and Youssef Idris all at once.

Indeed, the cafe is bound to project the thrill of an awed mood as it has long been a favourite haunt of Egypt's intellectual elite. Caricatures of writers and artists have always loyally adorned its walls.

Kalyani outlines a delicious history of how the cafe was in its early days, first owned by an Austrian and later sold to a Frenchman, then a Greek and of how many of the Nobel Prize winning writer, Naguib Mahfouz's inspiration for characters and plots were picked up from intimate dialogues at the cafe.

She also talks of literary gatherings among the thinkers, writers, artists and filmmakers and of how conversation would pass like a game of
grab the parcel from one table to the next, while a stream of noisy dialogue circled the air.

She hints at a slice of clandestine history...the discovery of printing press machines as well as secret passageways that led to an exit on nearby Huda Sharawi street. Later, the destination was changed to the kitchen. There is also an exciting mention of the presence of popular pilots like Mohamed Tony who fought the 1948 war and of dramtic tales centering around King Farouk.

Kalyani also reports that the current rumour holds that a book will soon be published on Cafe Riche.

Cafe Riche opens in two weeks time. The address is 17, Talaat Harb Street, just off Talaat Harb Square, Downtown, Cairo.

Picture of cafe is taken from Travellady.com.

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