In 1988 the contemporary writer Naguib Mahfouz became the first Arabic writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature and hence the pride of his country.
When in 1989 the Khan Khalili Restaurant and Café, run by the Oberoi chain, opened its doors, the café was dedicated to Naguib Mahfouz and named after him.
Located in the heart of Khan el Kahlili, the Naguib Mahfouz Café is a pleasant place to be. Naguib Mahfouz's pictures on the walls, the titles of his books engraved in wood, arabesque décor, comfortable seating areas and a selection of oriental hot and cold drinks invites for more than a snack. It is the friendly atmosphere, the memory of a great novelist and a shisha (waterpipe) in good company that makes this a very special café.
The main Khan Khalili Restaurant is decorated in the typical Arabic style of the last century. The tables are skillfully ranged, mirrors and pictures on the walls, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, all this makes dining a very special event. But apart from the main restaurant there are little niches with one or two tables that allow dining in privacy.
The menu consists of typical oriental dishes named by the original Arabic names like Chicken Kasbariya, Mossaka, Camuniyya or as a dessert Um Ali. No alcohol is served, but all kind of fresh juices. In the evening oriental life music entertains guests - as does the shoeshiner dressed in a last century outfit during day time.
The Khan el Khalili Restaurant and Naguib Mahfouz Café was awarded with the golden Cristal for health and safety, by Cristal, a branch of the UK based Check Safety First.
About Naguib Mahfouz (1911 – 2006)
Naguib Mahfouz was born into a middle class family. He spent most of his childhood in the heart of the ancient Jamaliyya quarter around the Azhar Mosque and University and close to the Khan el Khalili bazaars. In his nearly 40 novels he depicts the lives of the ordinary Egyptian in masterful simplicity and characterizes Egyptian social and political life. Reading his books with his remarkable characters is like a reading the social history of Egypt .
Mahfouz got his inspirations while sitting in cafés watching and listening to the ordinary people. His shilla (gang of friends) of writers and actors, who called themselves the harafish , the mob, spend hours and hours in cafes. The Naguib Mahfouz Café was also nicknamed Harafish because the gang spent there almost every day.
When Mahfouz died in 2006 Egyptians took to the streets. A banner held by a simple middle aged man read: "Farewell, Shakespeare of the Arabs” Mahfouz's loyalty to the simple, small bourgeois life of Cairo 's alleyways gained him grand respect among his people and especially the little man in the streets.
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published June 30, 2007
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