The Itaewon fine dining culture is truly eclectic. Although the area near the U.S. military base has been attracting foreigners and tourists for decades, the recent explosion of exquisite eateries offering unique international fare has allowed Itaewon to shed its reputation as merely a place where foreigners can drink and buy counterfeit goods. Now renowned as the veritable heart of Korea's intercultural activity, Itaewon is the go-to place for anyone looking to get a taste of another country without leaving the confines of the Seoul metro system. And if that country happens to be a land of towering pyramids, immortal pharaohs, and deadly rivers, then a visit to Egyptian restaurant Ali Baba may be just what you need. While a little too small to house Egypt's most prized attractions, Ali Baba does claim to be the single truly authentic Egyptian restaurant in Seoul. Established nine years ago by former diplomat Khalid Ali, the restaurant is nestled on the third floor of a commercial building on the eastern side of Itaewon's main strip. Upon entering the eatery, a sudden gust of air-conditioned relief mixed with the aroma of exotic spices is enough to awaken an appetite left dormant during these hot summer months. The restaurant's interior manages to provide a genuine Egyptian feel while avoiding overly ornate decorations that are often observed in Middle-Eastern eateries. At the back of the restaurant, behind a red curtain embroidered with sequins and beads, is a cushioned and more private dining area. With dim lighting and soothing background music, we didn't think the restaurant could have provided a more intimate dining experience – that is until our eyes feasted on the long row of hookahs, large Middle-Eastern water pipes used for social smoking. But first things first. After choosing where to sit we focused on the surprisingly straightforward menu. Unfamiliar dishes were coupled with concise explanations, with prices not exceeding 10,000 won. To start we ordered the hummus (4,500 won) with a side of pita (2,000 won). Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made primarily from chickpeas. Egyptian-style hummus is traditionally garnished with cumin, a red seasoning typically found in chili powder, and true to its roots this hummus had just that. The pita bread was soft and warm and the perfect dipping tool. For the main dish we chose the acclaimed falafel (8,000 won). A popular form of fast food in the Middle East, falafel is a fried vegetable patty usually eaten in pita as a sandwich. Adorned with sesame seeds and served with an array of vegetables and sauces, the falafel was wonderfully crispy on the outside and delectable on the inside. The perfect mixture of Egypt's characteristic spices, we now understood why a long queue outside Ali Baba is not a rare sight. To top off your meal is a dessert of the day, as well as Egyptian coffee and tea. More attractive, however, is ending a hearty Egyptian feast in the traditional way: over a relaxing hookah. According to Ali, the restaurant offers "every kind of tobacco flavor you would ever need," imported straight from Egypt. To meet growing demand, Ali has recently opened a sister restaurant, Alexandria. With an all-Egyptian cooking staff, dishes that are impossible to pronounce, and exotic smoking contraptions, this restaurant must be the closest thing to Egypt in all of Korea. To get to Ali Baba, take subway line 6 to Itaewon station, and take exit 2. Walk straight for about 150 meters. The restaurant is on your left.