For all dog-owners out there, the first dog café has arrived in Greater Cairo, and it is exactly what people all around the country have been waiting for.
Although Greater Cairo has a lot to offer its residents, a dog café has hitherto been missed. Now the dog café in Sheikh Zayed City allows everyone to combine their passion for dogs and coffee in one location.
“The idea had been on our minds since the Covid-19 outbreak, and demand for such a coffee shop had been continuously increasing. Many people had been feeling lonely and had wanted to fill the void by adopting dogs and becoming pet-owners,” said Ola Loutfi, founder and managing director of the dog café.
“We used to cook for our dogs during the Covid-19 quarantine, which gave us experience with their nutrition. Going the extra mile, my son also did a canine nutrition diploma, and we established a company for frozen food for dogs. It was at the same time that 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 dreamt of a coffee shop, so we felt that the foundations were there. We decided to take things to the next level and have a café for dogs.”
“Hossam and I had noticed how many restaurants in Cairo did not allow customers to bring their dogs inside, making dog-owners feel uncomfortable and unwelcome and forcing them to leave their dogs at home,” she added.
The purpose of the dog café is to encourage loving relationships between humans and domestic animals. The place stands not only for how it treats dogs, but also for the service it provides for both dogs and their owners. Many people in Egypt may still think that dogs should not be kept as pets, but the ownership trend is increasing. The dog café is a location where dog-owners can enjoy a coffee while their dogs can also eat in a safe and pleasant environment.
Loutfi, a dog-owner herself, created her own dog food brand a few years earlier and wanted to develop the market. “We offer a real pet-friendly place that makes every dog-owner comfortable sitting with his furry friend while sipping our specialty coffee. There are special serving trays for dogs, hospitality treats upon arrival, and other means of comfort,” she said.
The café has two menus, one for humans that includes fresh cocktails, coffee, and fresh juices, in addition to freshly baked croissants and sandwiches and salads. The other menu for dogs includes main course or snacks. Children can also enjoy cakes, muffins, doughnuts, and other delicacies. There is a monthly schedule of activities for customers that includes workshops and lectures on different topics, the idea being to bring people together and establish community.
The café fosters companionship in a friendly atmosphere among pet-owners. “We aim to produce a real community of dogs and coffee-lovers who meet, talk, and exchange ideas or experiences in an environment of positive energy,” Loutfi said.
Her coffee company is also on a mission to increase environmental awareness by recycling leftovers and distributing them as fertilisers to help the environment. She intends to invite dog-trainers and pet psychologists to speak on relations with dogs and to help people overcome any fear of them they may have.
“It is a secure haven for people who do not want to leave their dogs alone at home. I visited it with my dog Leo and my friends before the soft opening,” said Mariam Al-Touni, a 32-year-old advertising account director in Cairo.
“It was amazing on all levels, starting from the hospitality, the attention to detail of the place for dogs, the quality of the coffee, and the snacks specially made for dogs. Leo enjoyed the attention and special treatment. What was remarkable was the understanding that there is a need to have a safe and special place catering for dogs and their owners.”
Al-Touni explained that she had not visited similar cafés outside Egypt. “I visited pet-friendly cafés when I was in the US. But none were similar to this concept. I was desperately hoping for such a place to exist in Egypt, and it exceeded my expectations,” she said.
Her concerns for the welfare of her pet and desire to spend quality time together was what encouraged her to visit. “I will definitely repeat my visit. I am sure that all pet-owners will be thrilled to have such a magnificent place. People will eventually come around, as it is still not common in our culture to treat dogs like family,” Al-Touni said.
Loutfi said that she had not received support when she was setting up her café. “Hossam and I come from different backgrounds. He worked in the oil sector, and I worked in telecoms. But his passion for coffee and food, in addition to our passion for dogs, was the biggest 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 a country manager in Abu Dhabi. Loutfi said that among the challenges they had faced were the unavailability of equipment and some raw materials, price inconsistencies, and levels of inflation. Their next step is to extend to Cairo and Greater Cairo.
“But we need to learn from our operations here, so we can have solid ground when we think of expansion plans,” she added.
The dog café opened its doors in Sheikh Zayed City on 15 May, and it is planning to expand soon to Maadi, New Cairo, Al-Gouna, and maybe also Dahab.
A version of this article appears in print in the 23 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.