Egypt, being a predominantly Muslim country, has few places to buy and drink alcohol. In Cairo, of course, all things are possible and there are many pubs and bars catering for both the large expatriate drinking community and the small Egyptian drinking community. Alexandria, Egypt's second city, is a rather different kettle of fish. With a population of something like six million, about 90% of which is Muslim, it can sometimes be a bit of a task to find somewhere to get a beer, let alone anything stronger.
The Sheraton Montaza
The Sheraton Montaza, at the eastern end of the city, has a bar with a full complement of drinks, and any of these can be yours for an astronomical fee. Any taxi driver will be glad to take you there, but be aware that your fare might be higher than usual if you ask to be taken to a posh hotel.
All along the Cornice there are various 'Palaces' which are mostly venues for wedding receptions. Some of them, Panorama Palace in the Camp Cesar area, for example1, serve local Stella beer during the day. They probably also sell it at night, but there might not always be a wedding party going on and even if they do let you in, you won't be able to hear yourself think over the singing. For this reason places like the Panorama Palace are most suitable for a quiet beer during the day, especially since some of them are on the sea front.
Formerly the Portuguese General Association, this is now the main watering hole for the expatriate community. It's in the expensive residential area of Roushdy where the consulates and the richest Alexandrines tend to be.
In the summer the bar is outside. It has a pleasant patio garden area with plenty of room to mill around and the speakers are rigged up outside to play quite bad music2. In winter people go inside. Downstairs is a generic mock English pub set-up, but with nice comfy chairs and a pool room with extra tables. At the time of writing they are running a disco upstairs on Thursday nights. It's not a bad place to spend an evening, and is the biggest bar in Alexandria.
It is, inevitably, full of drunken expats doing drunken things, but if that kind of thing doesn't upset you too much, or actually seems right up your street, then off you go. Ask a taxi driver for Kaffer Abduh and he should take you to a street with a shop selling fruit and various other things on the corner. Get out there and walk up the street away from the main road. Take the first right and you'll find some iron gates on your left. There's no sign but in summer you can hear music from behind them. You have to ring the bell. It costs five Egyptian Pounds (LE) to get in and 45LE for a bar card of five drinks. They serve Egyptian red and white wine, Stella Local, Sakara and various spirits. There is food, but it's quite pricey. The steak, priced at 35LE, is not bad though. They also sell alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan.
Havana is the best bar in Alexandria. It's a tiny little place downtown with room for about six tables and very little extra space for moving around. It's got great atmosphere and the guy who runs it is a very friendly Egyptian who speaks immaculate English. He scores extra points for volunteering the fact that he serves Marmite. As well as Stella Local, Stella Premium and Meister beer and spirits, he serves reasonably-priced, good food. There's no printed menu, he'll just tell you what he's got and you order whatever you want. The Stella Local costs 5.50LE, The Meister costs 8LE and a bacon sandwich is 5LE. Among other features worthy of note are the men's toilets - they're fantastic and have swing doors.
To find Havana go west along Hurreya Street from Cinema Amir for about 500m until the road splits with two forks to your left, one to your right and Hurreya Street carrying on straight. There should be a big building with columns on your left. Go over the junction and Havana is behind stained glass windows and a stained glass door on your right. There's no sign and you have to knock to get in.
A tiny, dingy little place that feels a little bit like a battered school classroom. Decorated with postcards, stickers and money from all over the world as well as posters of women in bikinis, there's always something to look at. It sells Stella Local and Sakara at reasonable prices. There's only room for about 15 people in there and the barmen are very amiable.
The toilet cubicles are located in the corner of the room and the light switches for them are on the wall outside, within easy reach of the customers. When you're inside one of the cubicles it's completely dark inside. You can work the rest out for yourself.
To get to Spitfire walk west along Sa'ad Zaghloul street from Sa'ad Zaghloul square for a few blocks until the road opens up in front of you into the beginning of a square. Turn right and it's a few doors down on your right.
Slightly bigger than Spitfire, but still pretty small, Cap D'Or serves nice food as well as all the usual beers. Get the guy in Spitfire to show you where it is.