Cairo coffee houses are institutions rather than just places to grab a quick drink. There is chess playing going on, continuous shisha smoking and male bonding. “Fishawi’s” is the city’s most infamous coffe house, or ahwa, and possibly also the most photogenic one. However, a wander through Cairo’s back streets reveal ahwas stripped of tourists and filled with Cairenes going about their daily lives in an almost filmatic manner.
We popped our heads into this little coffee house and were given strange looks at first. The floor was filled with sawdust and the dark wooden paneling smelt of tobacco and coffee beans. As any photographer knows, taking pictures in Islamic countries can prove a real challenge, especially when photographing women. The men however, are fine being photographed as long as you establish a rapport with them on beforehand. They (and I suppose very few others) don’t appreciate being subjected to candid photography which unfortunately tends to be the norm when tourists venture into new places and feel intimidated getting talking to the locals.