Cairo: "For Women-Only Cafe. Men Are Not Welcome," reads a sign outside an elegant place covered with dark glass in Cairo upmarket quarter of Nasr City.

"The idea came to me when I noticed the great difficulty experienced by veiled women in having a meal at a public restaurant," said Marwa Hamdi, the owner of the place.

"My friends and relatives reacted enthusiastically to the idea and told their friends about it. Text-messaging has also helped in publicising the service," she told Gulf News.

Few years back, the idea of cafe only for women surfaced in other Arab cities, including Amman.

Food and beverages are served at the coffee shop, which has a special place for children, apparently to attract young mothers.

"Shisha [water pipe] and alcohol are prohibited at the place, which closes 12pm sharp," said Marwa. Banning shisha would deny Hamdi a sizable portion of female smokers. She has no regrets about that, though.

"I decided to prohibit shisha at my cafeto protect non-smokers and their children," she explained.

Marwa said she rents the place for LE7,000 (about Dh4,561) per month and has spent around LE50,000 on setting it up.

The coffee shop is the latest manifestation of a thriving women-only culture in Egypt.

Carriages for female commuters are designated on the Cairo Underground trains. Sports clubs have set certain days for women only to relax and sunbathe. Women-only beaches have also sprung up in this predominantly Muslim country, where Islamic outfits are increasingly popular with women.

"I used to meet my non-married friends at the hairdresser's. Now we can come here with my children around without being worried about harassment from men," said Nadia, a mother of two. "Inside the place, where the staff are female only, I can take off my niqab and socialise without embarrassment."

The cafeis not just a place where female customers can chat over soft drinks and food. It also features lessons in make-up, skin care and the latest veil fashions.

"Parties for birthdays and other special occasions are also held here," said Inas, a waitress. "I feel more comfortable serving food and drinks to women only.

"I can take off my hijab during working hours without being subjected to male preying eyes or annoying remarks."