Can Cairo street eats be the next global foodie phenomenon?

Reinventing Egyptian street food

    Just Watched

    Reinventing Egyptian street food

Reinventing Egyptian street food 06:31

Story highlights

  • For many residents of Cairo, the best food is street food
  • It is not about style; it means to be quick, cheap and filling
  • Zooba cafe in Cairo turns street food into fine dining

In Egypt, the words "street food" and "gourmet" don't often go hand in hand.

Street food is not about style; it's meant to be quick, cheap and filling. However Chris Khalifa, a 30-year-old owner of Zooba cafe in Cairo, has tried to change that.

He saw a trend elsewhere in the world: chefs hit the streets and serve dishes out of food trucks.

"I noticed no one had ever tried to do this with Egyptian street food," said Khalifa. "I try to create a brand around a more gourmet Egyptian street food."

But instead bringing gourmet food to the street, Zooba turns street food into fine dining. Located in Cairo's upmarket Zamalek neighborhood, the cafe serves classic street fare like koshari and falafel with a new twist.

The dishes, like spinach-infused "baladi" bread or sweet potatoes roasted with a blowtorch, are prepared by professionally trained chefs, using top-quality ingredients.

Read more: Egypt's street art revolution

Khalifa's business partner, Moustafa El Rafaey, handles the creative side of running the restaurant. Trained at a culinary arts program in the United States, he initially found cooking Egyptian cuisine was quite daunting -- and foreign.

Cairo's thriving art scene

    Just Watched

    Cairo's thriving art scene

Cairo's thriving art scene 06:24
PLAY VIDEO

"I was scared to be honest," said El Rafaey. "I had (a) good international background. To leave all this to cook... Egyptian food was a bit scary for me."

Egypt's farming revolution

    Just Watched

    Egypt's farming revolution

Egypt's farming revolution 05:11
PLAY VIDEO

To develop the restaurant's menu, El Rafaey traveled across Egypt. He mastered local recipes, tried new flavors and searched for best ingredients. He relishes his experience, saying that preparing food is like creating an artwork.

"Anything that puts a smile on your face is an art. When you watch a good dance or listen to a good music that makes your smile," Elrafaey says. "And I put smiles on people's faces with my food."

"When we started, I honestly had no idea how people would respond to a gourmet 'ful,' 'tameya' or 'koshari,'" said Khalifa, who quit his banking job to start the restaurant. "The response has been good, people have been coming in."

Business is so good that they are thinking to expand, opening a second and a third branch of Zooba in Cairo. And perhaps one day, in Dubai or even London -- which means taking Egyptian street food to the world.

      Inside the Middle East

    • Aquaventure was expanded in 2013 to include a Leap of Faith ride that passes through a shark-filled aquarium. Visitors can swim in a manmade lagoon filled with marine animals.

      Robot dinosaurs, Lego men and Spider-Man all could become Dubai's newest residents.
    • Al Nassma is the first camel milk chocoalte company in the world. The Dubai-based company had gone global, and Al Nassma products are carried in high-end department stores around the world, including London's Selfridges.

      Not long ago camel milk was an unfancied staple, the preserve of Bedouin herders. Now its becoming a luxury.
    • Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, 'House of God' that Muslims believe was built by Abraham 4,000 years ago, on September 30, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers started pouring into the holy city for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. This year's Hajj comes as the authorities strive to protect pilgrims from two deadly viruses, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus or MERS

      Managing over 2 million people during the Hajj takes some serious technology.
    • Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia compete's as one of only two women from the country at the London Olympic Games.

      More needs to be done so women from Saudi Arabia can become world champions in sports.
    • The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
    • Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.