Esperance, who had gone in front through Walid Hichri in the 49th minute, will still be the favourites going into the second leg in Tunis on Nov. 17.
Sunday's game represented the first time that home fans were allowed in to watch Egyptian giants Al Ahli since 74 people died in a stadium riot in Port Said in February.
Officials allowed a limited crowd of 15,000 for Sunday's first leg but moved the game from Cairo to the port city of Alexandria.
Al Ahli, who have kept themselves competitive on a diet of friendly matches and training camps, missed several scoring chances against Esperance.
The Egyptians have lifted a record six Champions League titles while Esperance won for the second time last year.
- Sports & Recreation