Guided Tour : The Sphinx Café

In Guided Tour, Pittsburgh on August 30, 2011 at 12:00 am

This description is about the original Sphinx, in South Side. The revamped Sphinx, in Oakland, is far more interesting: It’s built into a converted church. Photograph of the original Sphinx during a “son et lumière” show, Giza, Egypt.

Stepping into the Sphinx Café is like stepping into the Giza bazaar: With its small tables, cushions on the floor, colorful wall hangings and traditional Egyptian art, the Sphinx is like a crash course in Mediterranean culture. There isn’t a Starbucks brew in existence that could rival the warm rush of Arabic coffee; and the teas, both cold and warm, are delightfully bitter, and even more delightfully sweetened with a squirt of honey. But baklava and imported juices are mere aperitifs to the true connoisseur: The real deal is the authentic Egyptian hookah – or shisha – flavored with rose, cappuccino, strawberry or mint tobacco. Groups of friends gather on the floor to converse, sip a glass of warm milk, and relax in the haze of incense-like tobacco smoke. This family-owned establishment is a key gathering place for shisha fans and novices, far away from the crowded HKAN hookah bar, and Friday nights often yield Middle Eastern pop music and authentic belly dancing.


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