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Monday, March 10, 2014

Nightclubbing in Cairo

Nightclubbing in Cairo has long been an "iffy" proposition.  The typical local neighborhood night spots look like these two places just down the street.

They are actually "coffee shops," which means they sell tea and provide water-pipes with flavored tobacco (apple and cherry are big sellers.)  Don't look for any women to be there except for, perhaps, a tourist invited by a local.  You won't find any beer for sale, not even Birel, the local non-alcoholic brand.  And there isn't much demand for the brew.  We don't know anyone here who who drinks beer or wine although we know a few who did so in their wild and crazy younger days.

 But, Cairo has long had an open market for beer and wine.  They even have at least one decent locally brewed beer, Stella, and a number of quality wineries.  But it's a bit like pork.  You have to know where to shop for it. (Hint: look in a Christian or ex-pat neighborhood.)  Drinkies is the most favored location.

Which brings us to the subject of real nightclubs, the ones with belly-dancers.   Let's say that they come and go.  Wikipedia documents the burning of 92 bars and a number of famous clubs in an uprising in 1952.  This 1986 Chicago Tribune article describes the burning of nightclubs along Pyramids Street amid other turmoil.  At least one of those burned out clubs stood until recently, in charred ruins, like the Packard Factory in Detroit as a monument to another era.  I was aware of considerable closing of the large clubs on Pyramids Street since the 2011 revolution so I was surprised to see these small clubs on our first ride along Pyramids Street this year.

I was told that they are frequented by the "African people."  Ethiopians, Nigerians and Somalis are frequently hired here by the upper class as domestic help.  That led me to explore the Internet a bit to find out what did happen to the previous large clubs on Pyramids Street and I came upon this fascinating article by Priscilla Adum, one of the belly-dancers from the pre-revolution night club scene.

Priscilla asserts that the clubs were bought up by the owner of El Tawhed Wi El Nour department stores.  I definitely suggest that you read the whole piece by Priscilla at the above link.  Here are pictures of a couple of the El Tawhed stores.  I can vouch for the employment policies and practices that she describes.

The Gilded Serpent website provides both a list of current venues for bellydance/nightclub entertainment and preserves their page from pre-revolution times.

The general absence of alcohol here is a good thing.  With people driving on the wrong side of the road, driving fast  and a sizeable fraction declining to use their headlights at night, timely reflexes are always needed.

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