I was in Cairo this week for a speaking engagement at The Marketers League and my friend Omar Islam Shalaby invited me to meet him for dinner at U Bistro & Bar. Omar said: “It’s a secret bar in the hippest part of Cairo. You’ll love it.” I was especially intrigued when I got back to my hotel and found that the establishment only has a placeholder website.
Since I was to meet Omar and his friends at the bar, he had to give me directions to get there on my own: I was to find a particular unmarked door of an older apartment building on a bustling street in the Zamalek district. “It won’t seem like the right place, but trust me,” Omar said. Once inside the lobby in need of restoration, I was to go up one floor either by stairs or via an ancient elevator. I chose the stairs but admired the elevator enough to Instagram it.
“At the top of the stairs, turn left and enter the door,” Omar told me. It seemed like I was about to enter an abandoned apartment. But the door opened to a big reveal -- a fantastic restaurant complete with the beautiful people of Cairo enjoying drinks and dinner. It was a scene from Harry Potter: Unmarked and secret on the outside but bustling and full of finely dressed characters on the inside.
I met Omar at the table and he insisted on showing me around. He lives nearby and comes often. “You have to know about the place to find it,” he said. “Even so, it’s really popular. The food is great and the tables are always full.”
Omar was right. The meal was excellent. There were many fancy people to watch. It was a great evening all around.
What I found so interesting about U Bistro & Bar was the lengths they go through to make the place “secret”. While they do have a Facebook and Instagram account, the restaurant relies on fans like Omar to build a culture of exclusivity around the place.
You’re either a part of the group of insiders who know the place or you’re not.
And it works.
And here I am telling you all about it so when you’re in Cairo you can go too.