The disgusting and the divine

If you were ever after a slice of streetlife in Downtown Cairo, taking a bench at Restaurant Zezo the Disgusting's (est 1962) would give you ringside seats.

The restaurant is a string of benches and trestle tables set on the roadside opposite one of Cairo's city gates, Bab el-Futah. Built in the 11th century, the gates lead into Gamilaya, the heart of Islamic Cairo, which is why Zezo's little kitchen is topped with a perky imitation of the gates.

Zezo's is most famous for its sandwiches - soft white bread rolls - filled with fried liver or spicy oriental sausage, and a super-sweet, hyper-activity-inducing roll filled with halva, cream and... honey (omg!!!) for around LE5 each. The floor is the city's dirt and there's a constant stream of taxis, donkey carts, garbage trucks and cheap Chinese motorbikes tearing past, spilling pollution onto the scene. Best eat at night, then.

Last time we visited the 24-hour Zezo's, a bride sat, in full white regalia, at the next table, intermittently weeping and fainting till her groom back-handed her and manhandled her into the bridal car watched in a mix of amusement and horror by the rest of the cafe.

The perfect follow-up to a late-night dinner at Zezo's is tea and a shisha pipe at Lord's, inside the city walls. The cafe's pets include a handful of stripy kittens, a scattering of small, colourful birds and a large duck, which I reckon is so cranky because it's sleep deprived. Come too close, and it'll take a bad-tempered swipe at your ankles.

"What time do you close?" we asked one of the busy cafe boys at Lords.

"There are no walls at Lords," he replied, with a mystical look in his eye that could have either been the result of the late night, indulgence in sufism or a particularly strong hash...


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