As I sat across from my husband, ready to tear into my Chicken Tawouk, I had a big ping on my gaydar. Across from us a group of young men were laughing and chatting, with drinks in hand and hookahs to the lips, a scene that plays out at gay bars across the world. While officially there aren’t any gay bars, clubs or restaurants in Cairo, we may have just stumbled across what may be one of the city’s most friendly and chic venues for dining or drinks.Sequoia is hugged on three sides by the Nile, and sits at the very tip of Zamalek island. This area is home to many foreign embassies and quite a few of modern Egypt’s most influential individuals. The young and the beautiful, the old and the moneyed, foreign visitors and expats flock to this casual dining establishment to see and be seen.
The entire restaurant sits inside one huge tent, at the Nile’s edge. The decor mixes basic whites, bleached woods, and modern lighting to add a sense of airiness. Adjustable walls made of clear tarp are pulled aside during the day to allow fresh air in and provide unobstructed views of Cairo, and the river’s daily life. Spacious and open seating is great for group while still allowing for socializing with surrounding tables.Once the sun begins to set, the walls are closed, blocking the chill winds and inevitable mosquitoes from bothering the patrons. This also traps all the cigarette and hookah smoke inside, however, so if you suffer from smoke allergies or just don’t like the smell, plan your visit during the day since the air can become quite thick and pungent at night when the restaurant is hopping.
We enjoyed food as fresh and clean as the surroundings, served elegantly on modern square plates. Though in many ways simple and typical of Lebanese (also called Oriental in Egypt) cuisine, the chefs often added additional excitement: the exquisite Baba Ghanoush, for instance, was garnished with dainty mounds of pink pomegranate seeds. For meat lovers, the Mixed Grill Platter is a must: skewered chicken and lamb is complemented by a minced meat kebab, ‘Kofta’, which I absolutely adore. Bread, baked fresh onsite on traditional ovens, arrives tableside steaming. Theres also a kaleidoscope of traditional mezze dishes such as falafel, hummus and tabbouleh.
I will admit that, when compared to other dining options in Cairo, Sequoia may be on the expensive side. But, when compared to many European and North American eateries, the prices are quite a steal. Best of all, neither of us ever had any tummy issues from the meals enjoyed at Sequoia, which by itself, makes this culinary find a gem in my book.
Sequoia is a wonderful venue where gay travelers can feel comfortable and enjoy a delicious meal in Cairo while taking in the Nile and exquisite cityscape. I look forward to returning there on my next visit.
If You Go: