In the blistering heat of a Cairo summer, it often seems easiest to hide inside, avoiding the omnipresent heat wave.
But, there are some things done best in the midst of summer. An outdoor movie and ice cream immediately come to mind. A trip to out Heliopolis to the outdoor Cinema Normandy and two delicious ice cream shops, Mandarine Koueider and Sultana, can deliver on both.
As you walk down Al-Ahram Street, where Cinema Normandy is located, keep your destination firmly in mind. Delightful cafes flank the wide sidewalks and the outdoor patios with couples sharing lavish pastries are tempting. Large glass windows showcase seemingly endless supplies of sweets. It is also clear, from the relaxed look of employees and cafe-goers, that these cafes offer a most precious commodity in the depths of a Cairo summer: air-conditioning.
Reject the temptation to enter one of the many alluring cafes, and continue onto Cinema Normandy. The outside is nondescript, the facade is that of an average cinema. But, the old cliche says it best: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Buy a LE10 movie ticket at the window outside. You won’t be disappointed by the audio or visual quality, which can sometimes leave something to be desired in other outdoor operations. The stage is tilted downward and the seats at an incline for optimal acoustics.
Passing through the 1920s-esque, stained-glass doors into the wide lobby, there is an older gentleman who seems to have been there for years who will take your ticket. You would never expect this acre of cinema space to be tucked behind a building on the busy street.
The honking taxis, the roar of cars, the yells of street vendors suddenly seem miles away. In the somewhat cooler air of a summer evening, the cinema is peaceful. Strolling through the light-filled lobby under large arches, a rustle of a breeze through greenery can be heard.
The cinema is totally enclosed; apartments and trees embrace the white, sloping seats. Directly ahead a large screen hangs, surrounded by trees and shrubs.
On a Monday night the seats were mostly empty and the crowd subdued. Surely weekend nights draw larger crowds, but the chance to sit quietly under the stars while watching a film is an opportunity not to be missed.
After the show ends, you can head back to the cafes along Al-Ahram Street. But perhaps you decide you are in the mood for ice cream on a hot summer’s night. In that case, head for Baghdad Street across the way, home to two delicious ice cream shops, Sultana and Mandarine Koueider.
Sultana offers a wide array of ice cream flavors in the American style. The ice cream here is richer and creamier than Egyptian ice cream, which sometimes more closely resembles gelato.
At Sultana’s there is an especially extensive variety of chocolate ice creams. Dark chocolate, hazelnut chocolate, mint chocolate, chocolate with cookies–there is an entire case full of divine chocolate flavors. Other enticing flavors include mango, vanilla strawberry cheesecake, mystique, pistachio, and caramel. The list goes on.
The five-man staff is friendly and willing to let you sample as much as you’d like. Not only does Sultana offer up creative ice creams, but they also have a wide range of toppings. Dried fruit, cookies, nuts, chocolate and caramel sauces are just some of the many ingredients that can be added to your ice cream.
One of us ordered lemon and another friend ordered the hazelnut ice cream after much debate. Sultana’s has many fine chocolates as well.
Employees at Sultana’s succeed in presentation, adding a chocolate covered cookie, dollop of whipped cream and maraschino cherry atop the ice cream. The treat isn’t cheap – at LE 6.50 for the smallest size.
At Mandarine Koueider, a block down from Sultana’s, you can find yet more ice cream as well as traditional pastries. The small shop is divided into these two operations and can be chaotic at times. Prices for ice cream start at LE 3.80 for one scoop, somewhat more reasonable than Sultana’s. The selection is less robust but the crowd of ice cream lovers was no less eager.
Despite the smaller selection, the shop boasts original and innovative flavors. The muffin flavored ice cream does, in fact, taste exactly like a blueberry muffin.
Both Sultana and Mandarine Koueider have several locations throughout Cairo, so if a trip out to Heliopolis isn’t in the cards, these sweet treats can be found closer to home.
One drawback for both places is a lack of seating. There aren’t areas outside to eat either. But in Egyptian style, it may be best to stroll along Baghdad Street eating the ice cream instead.
Before you go, know that Cinema Normandy sits besides its aptly-named but apparently unrelated sister operation Cinema Normandy. One is indoors, the other outdoors. Ask to take a peek inside the cinema before purchasing your tickets.