For 45 years, Maryse Helal’s family has refereed the conversations among Cairo’s cultural elite at Estoril, their windowless downtown restaurant (12 Talaat Harb St.; 20-2574-3102). Here’s who you might see at lunch or dinner:
1. Max Rodenbeck: The Economist correspondent grew up here and wrote the love-letter historyCairo: The City Victorious.
2. Amr Waked: You might recognize the Egyptian actor from his role as a terrorist leader opposite George Clooney in Syriana. He was also seen on the streets of Cairo on the first day of January’s protests.
3. Yousry Nasrallah: Born a Coptic Christian, he has led Egypt’s revival as the movie capital of the Arab world by tackling issues such as poverty, urbanization, Palestine, and migration.
4. Nabil Abdel Fattah: A political analyst who keeps a skeptical finger permanently on the collective pulse of the Muslim Brotherhood.
5. Alaa Al Aswany: At 53, an old man on the revolutionary scene. Also the author of the best-received Arabic novel of the last decade, The Yacoubian Building—which contains a portrayal of Estoril, under a different name.
6. Hassan El Geretly: Half-Scottish and half-Egyptian, this trendsetting theater director’s hard-driving ways on local stages have been described as an “aesthetic despotism.”
7. Maria Golia:One of the foremost expat chroniclers of how order arises out of Cairo’s anarchy. (See her book Cairo: City of Sand.)
8. William Wells: A Canadian by passport and Egyptian at heart, Wells curates the Townhouse Gallery, a downtown walk-up showcasing the newest and most innovative in Egyptian art.