As a Cairo University alumnus, I know that good café options within a walking distance of the university are limited. Students often frequent the nearby Mesaha Square, whose cafés are usually packed with students working on group projects throughout the year.
There is now a new venue that could prove convenient for students looking for a place to host them for hours while they tirelessly discuss group assignments and prepare presentations; a café and bookstore called Booklet, located on the first floor in an old apartment building on Mesaha Street. Opened in May, Booklet has only been around for a few months.
To make your way to Booklet, you have to go through a courtyard, which slightly resembles the old feel of Downtown Cairo’s antique buildings, and then take a flight of stairs that are heavily worn down and are in serious need of repair.
But once you go inside the café, you soon forget that it is situated in a rundown building. The café is furnished with dark wooden chairs and tables and has an overall cosy setting. Booklet’s walls are painted in different colours, ranging from bright orange to yellow and dark green, and are decorated with large black and white photographs and paintings of Egypt at an earlier time or of old popular actors and actresses. The cafe is dimly lit with spotlights, but can be adjusted to accomodate the needs of the visitors. Its large brown windows are decorated with short draped curtains sporting brightly coloured Islamic patterns.
In case you get tired of staying indoors, you can step out onto a large terrace overlooking the statue of Ahmed Shawqy, situated in a small stone garden and surrounded by a few blossoming trees.
At Booklet, you can buy new books as well as borrow from the cafe’s collection, although it may be rather hard to find interesting books if you choose to do the latter. Many of the books in the collection are too specialised and some are just random, like a book in Danish language, which I came across.
The management of the café said it likes to support new talent by hosting open mike nights and tries to please the crowds by hosting concerts, workshops, garage sales and movie screenings. There are two halls in the cafe that can be rented for private use, and are very convenient for hosting workshops or giving lectures.
The café’s Facebook page regularly offers information on the workshops they are hosting, such as Origami workshops and children’s art programs.
After a walk around the café, I sat down and looked at their menu. I had been looking forward to a variety of options, but alas, the menu was divided into hot and cold drinks and five choices for desserts only.
Everything on the menu is affordable though, with prices starting at EGP 5 and reaching around EGP 20. The ice chocolate was refreshing, although I have had better ones, and it is clear that it is Booklet’s ambience and location that give the café its edge.