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Café Riche: Cairo’s historic coffee shop faces murky future

Owner’s death leaves fate of the 100-year-old landmark on the line

Published: Updated:

Café Riche, one of Cairo’s most famous cafes, is facing an uncertain future after manager and co-owner Magdy Abdel-Malak died earlier this month.

According to Egypt’s Ahram Online news website, the 100-year-old café has been closed since the death of Abdel-Malak as his brother and only living sibling resides outside of Egypt, leaving regular customers in fear of its permanent closure.

Set up in 1908, the restaurant has survived the drastic changes that have occurred in Egypt over the past century. Renowned for its distinctive style and having been a favorite for intellectual and cultural elites in the Arab world, including famed Egyptian poets and writers like Salah Jaheen, Amal Donkul and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, it is believed that it is a strong candidate for procurement by investors.

It is also believed that former Egypt’s Gamal Abdel-Nasser met with other members of the Free Officers movement at the cafe before overthrowing King Farouk I and later becoming president.

In its early days, Café Riche was also known to host an outdoor theatre where legendary singer Om Kalthoum and folk singer Sayed Darwish are said to have performed.

The café has also been mentioned by the award-winning Egyptian novelist Ibrahim Abdel-Meguid’s novel “Cairo is Here,” which described Riche as the place where Egypt’s modern literary trends are set.

“From the beginning of the 20th century, Riche hosted a garden where artists put on shows,” Abdel-Meguid said to Ahram Online.

“The cafe was also a rallying point for Egypt’s revolutionaries and political activists,” he said.

It has been reported that the legal status of restaurant is not clear.