Le Riad

Cairo, Egypt Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
A magical small hotel in the heart of old Cairo, with a sublime roof terrace for breakfast in the sun
The list of superlatives that fairly describe Le Riad is seemingly endless. Opened in 2009, this is the coolest hotel in Cairo and it stands bang in the middle of the city’s oldest quarter, the most vibrant district in town. Inside, you find the lap of luxury: vast suites, fantastic art, loads of colour, the chicest bathrooms in all Egypt. Best of all is the sublime roof terrace, where you can sink into a sofa in the shade of a parasol and listen to the street passing below. Breakfast up here is hard to beat and views stretch far and wide: minarets, citadels, distant hills.

As for the Islamic quarter, it’s no less alluring. It teems with ancient buildings that flaunt their beauty without restraint, while streets and alleyways are free of cars, the rarest treat in town. Within 500 metres of the front door you’ll find ancient mosques, a medieval mansion and Cairo’s most famous souk. As for the 17 suites in the hotel, they deliver the best of everything: fabulous beds, the crispest linen, beautiful fabrics, acres of space. Some have studies, all have sitting rooms, eight have balconies, too. Don’t miss it.


  • The roof terrace is the coolest place to hang out in town
  • If you find a lovelier bathroom in Egypt, we’d love to know
  • The old Islamic quarter is Cairo’s most atmospheric district
  • There’s a lift to whisk you up and down and staff who swoop on luggage


  • Check the political situation in Cairo before travelling (see the FCO advice)
  • Being in the Islamic quarter means there’s no alcohol in the hotel
  • The prices match the best in Europe, but you get something very special here
  • You’re in the middle of the city; expect a little noise

Best time to go

Temperatures soar so high in the summer, you won’t want to leave your air-conditioned room, so avoid June through August. High season is December to February. We travelled in November - blue sky every day and Cairo was sticky. But if you come in winter, expect temperatures to fall noticeably at night and make sure you bring a jacket.

You might want to avoid Ramadan, when some businesses will close for the whole month. And if you are travelling over holidays - Eid al-Adha, Ras an-Sana - expect the rest of Egypt to be competing for your seat. The dates for these holidays change every year, so check before planning your trip.

Our top tips

Take a stroll through the neighbourhood at night, to enjoy the spectacle of monuments being lit up.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 17
  • Breakfast only (+ walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Iznyik Superior Suite


Big, beautiful rooms await, not that they’re rooms at all, but extremely plush suites, every single one of them. The hallmarks are bold colours and lots of style, though each room is different with names to give a hint of what to expect: Pharaoh, Ottoman, Belly Dance, Bedouin. Superior Suites are bigger and have balconies that give views of the streets below; and while some also have separate studies, all come with WiFi and phone lines, and they can arrange a computer if required.

Each room could double as an art gallery. You get fabulous fabrics, coloured glass chandeliers, supremely comfortable beds wrapped in crisp white linen. Unlike many hotels in Egypt the finish here is not skin deep, a fact clearly demonstrated in your gorgeous bathroom, where you find vast glass showers, creamy sandstone tiles, thick robes, Acqua di Portofino toiletries, enormous towels. Sitting rooms come laden with excess: great art on the walls, sofas to curl up on, flat-screen TVs and DVD players, too. Elsewhere, you’ll find bowls of fruit, safes in wardrobes, beautifully embroidered armchairs, even dressing rooms. All rooms are fully air conditioned.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Laptop
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


Breakfast up on the roof terrace was a highlight of our stay in Cairo. Plates of food were brought to the table while the sun shone benignly and the imams called the faithful to prayer. Then came the hard task of digging into fresh yoghurt flavoured with honey, a basket of pains au chocolat and hot croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice to wash it all down followed by strong coffee (or Earl Grey tea). There are plates of fruit, sticks of baguette, eggs if you want them, while butter comes resting on ice to keep it cool. All this accompanied by the sound of water falling from the fountain.

Officially, no other meals are served at the hotel, though there is a small snack menu available if the mood strikes you. Options include toasted sandwiches, salads and simple tomato pasta, as well as sweeter more traditional treats like pastries with Moroccan tea, and traditional Egyptian desserts.

You don’t have to walk far to eat out. Try Taj Al Sultan on the other side of the souk, a new venture in an old bank which offers very good Indian and Egyptian dishes. You can also sup with Cairo’s mover/shakers at Citadel View, where a huge terrace gives great views of the city; the food is traditional and tasty. Restaurants downtown are a little hit and miss, but Le Bistro (8 Sharia Hoda Shaarawi) is extremely popular with Cairenes. Staff will advise.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Snack menu
Eating: Tea Lounge and Restaurant


  • You’re in the heart of old Cairo (founded in 969AD by the Fatimid dynasty), with a thousand years of history on your doorstep, so wander the lanes and alleyways and discover magnificent mosques, fine old houses, the odd palace

  • Turn right out of the front door and 500 metres south you’ll come to Khan al-Khalili, Cairo’s most famous souk. A great place to spend an afternoon

  • Central Cairo for the Egyptian Museum, which is unmissable even if their spectacular collection of Pharaonic artefacts could do with dusting. Cameras are not allowed in the building and must be left in a booth at the gates. Entrance to the Royal Mummies section is not included in your ticket, but it's definitely worth the supplement

  • The Nile, which separates the east bank (Cairo) from the west bank (Giza). If you want to cruise through the city on a felucca, head down to Dok Dok in Garden City and be prepared to haggle

  • Marvel over the Pyramids at Giza, on the southwest fringe of the city. These 4,000-year-old behemoths are best seen early, otherwise you’ll have the company of the world and his wife. It is possible to hire camels or horses, then approach across the desert, thus avoiding the crowds

  • The Step Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser, 30km south of Cairo) is the oldest pyramid on the planet and attracts far fewer tourists than those at Giza. It is an infinitely more satisfying experience and can easily be coupled with a visit to Memphis, which, 5,000 years ago, was the first capital of Egypt

  • Coptic Cairo is well worth a visit. From the centre of town it’s four stops south on the metro and if you stray into the streets to the south, each stop will represent a journey back in time of a hundred years. You’ll find sheep and cattle on mud-impacted streets and it won’t be long before you’re drinking tea with the locals

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets


All ages are welcome, but there’s not much for kids to do here and you’ll need to be vigilant if they’re up on the roof terrace.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Rooms are easily big enough to accommodate an extra bed for children over 6; younger children are welcome to share their parents beds.

Kid Friendly:

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