For all the dog owners out there, Greater Cairo’s premier dog cafe has arrived, and it’s exactly what people across the country have been waiting for.
Although Greater Cairo has a lot to offer its residents, a dog café has been missed until now. Now the Dog Cafe in Sheikh Zayed City allows everyone to combine their passion for dogs and coffee in one place.
“The idea had been in our minds since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the demand for such a café had steadily increased. Many people were feeling lonely and wanted to fill the gap by adopting dogs and becoming pet owners,” said Ola Loutfi, founder and CEO of the dog cafe.
“We cooked for our dogs during the Covid-19 quarantine, which gave us experience with their diet. My son took it a step further: my son also completed a dog nutrition diploma and we started a frozen dog food company. At the same time, I and a friend, Hossam Hassan, who is now my partner, left our work,” Loutfi said.
“I started thinking about doing something related to dog nutrition. Hossam dreamed of a coffee shop, so we felt the basics were there. We decided to take things to the next level and open a cafe for dogs.”
“Hossam and I had noticed that many restaurants in Cairo would not allow customers to bring their dogs in, making dog owners feel uncomfortable and unwelcome and forcing them to leave their dogs at home,” she added.
The aim of the dog café is to promote loving relationships between humans and pets. The place not only stands for the handling of dogs, but also for the service it offers to dogs and their owners. Many people in Egypt may still think that dogs shouldn’t be kept as pets, but the ownership trend is increasing. The Dog Cafe is a place where dog owners can enjoy a coffee while their dogs eat in a safe and comfortable environment.
Loutfi, a dog owner herself, created her own dog food brand a few years earlier and wanted to break into the market. “We offer a truly pet-friendly space that makes it easy for any dog owner to sit with their furry friend while sipping our specialty coffee. There are special serving trays for dogs, welcome treats on arrival and other means of comfort,” she said.
The café has two menus, one for humans, which includes fresh cocktails, coffee and fresh juices alongside freshly baked croissants, sandwiches and salads. The other menu for dogs includes main course or snacks. Children can also enjoy cakes, muffins, donuts and other delicacies. There is a monthly activity plan for clients that includes workshops and lectures on various topics to bring people together and build community.
The café promotes camaraderie in a friendly atmosphere among pet owners. “Our goal is to create a true community of dogs and coffee lovers to meet, talk and share ideas or experiences in an environment of positive energy,” said Loutfi.
Her coffee company has also made it a point to raise environmental awareness by recycling leftovers and distributing them as fertilizer to help the environment. She intends to invite dog trainers and animal psychologists to talk about the relationship with dogs and to help people overcome their fear of them.
“It’s a safe retreat for people who don’t want to leave their dogs at home alone. I visited it with my dog Leo and friends before it opened,” said Mariam Al-Touni, a 32-year-old advertising manager in Cairo.
“It was amazing on every level starting with the hospitality, the attention to detail of the place for dogs, the quality of the coffee and the snacks made especially for dogs. Leo enjoyed the attention and special treatment. Of note was the understanding that a safe and special place is needed for dogs and their owners.”
Al-Touni explained that she has not visited similar cafes outside of Egypt. “When I was in the US, I used to visit pet-friendly cafes. But none was similar to this concept. I was desperately hoping there would be a place like this in Egypt and it exceeded my expectations,” she said.
Her concern for her pet’s welfare and desire to spend time together encouraged her to visit. “I will definitely repeat my visit. I’m sure all pet owners will be thrilled to have such a great place. Eventually, people will come by as it’s still not common in our culture to treat dogs like family,” Al-Touni said.
Loutfi said she didn’t get any support to set up her cafe. “Hossam and I have different backgrounds. He worked in the oil sector and I worked in telecommunications. But his passion for coffee and food, alongside our passion for dogs, was the most support I could have had,” she said.
She used to work as director of corporate and government affairs for a multinational company but had to leave due to the Covid-19 quarantine. Hossam was Country Manager in Abu Dhabi. Loutfi said the challenges they faced included the unavailability of equipment and some raw materials, price inconsistencies and rates of inflation. Your next step is to expand to Cairo and Greater Cairo.
“But we need to learn from our operations here so that we have a solid foundation when we think about expansion plans,” she added.
The dog cafe opened its doors in Sheikh Zayed City on May 15 and plans to expand to Maadi, New Cairo, Al-Gouna and maybe Dahab soon.
A version of this article will appear in print in the June 23, 2022 issue of Al-Ahram Weekly.