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Cairo Now

The Post Revolution Entertainment Scene in Egypt

Protest at the Cairo Opera house

by Leila Farid
posted 11-20-13

As I sat in the Gomhoreya Theater the other day waiting for the ballet to start, I felt happy just to be there. Only a few short months ago, the dancers and staff had been on strike. They were demonstrating against a statement by the former Islamic Minister of Culture, calling the ballet “nudity” and “indecent” and proposing to eradicate it all together.

As I watched the gorgeous rendition of the old folk tale “Ayoub wa Nassa” by the Opera’s Forsen el Shar’a Ensemble, I couldn’t help but think of how close Egypt came to going down a road where dance, secular literature and film may have become dinosaurs of the past.

Since the massive demonstrations that lead to the ousting of Islamic president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt breathed a short sigh of relief. The two kilometer long gas lines are gone, the cost of electricity has been cut by at least half (and it actually works-no more day long power cuts), and water comes out of the tap when you turn it on. Essentials have been restored which make daily life easier. The sense of lawlessness that permeated the streets during Morsi’s presidency is gone. The police are back and the military is a presence again with the majority support of the people.

Now starts the long and grueling rebuilding of the country. Writing a new constitution, managing effectively the countries resources, establishing social programs and minimum wage, addressing the gas crisis, organizing a new and fair presidential election are just a few of the problems facing the interim government. Also the followers of ex-president Morsi did not go quietly. There are incidents every few days where Morsi’s followers retaliate for what they saw as a coup. The universities are hot beds for clashes between students who supported Morsi and the students who support his ousting.

For artists, we lived a very long year under Morsi’s presidency, wondering when and where the axe would fall and would it be our art form that was next on the chopping block. Tax cases were brought against most working dancers in Egypt and even those who had retired or returned to their own countries. The Islamists did not stop us from working but they made us pay for being dancers, literally.

It would have been hard to find a dancer in Egypt who didn’t celebrate the exit of Morsi and his government.

Just as the threat to our art form from the Islamists is gone, we face another one, economics. For dancers in particular, the elation at having a secular government has been replaced with the numbness of the dry spell that is already upon us.

Lynette had asked me when I was in the States over Ramadan last Summer, to update the Cairo clubs page, which was originally added in 2007, and updated in 2009, investment and industry has given people hope that this summer things will start to turn around. But the winter we are facing is long and cold.

Hopefully some of the restaurants and nightclubs that featured dancers will reopen or new ones will take their place. It is hard to imagine an Egypt where dance is not a big part of Egyptian entertainment. Personally, I don’t think Oriental dance in Egypt will die. I think it just has to sleep for a while before being awakened by the handsome prince of tourism and a stimulated economy. Maybe in the months ahead there will be a new beginning for raqs sharki; I have hope!

Leila performing in a Cairo Club

Current Clubs and Dance Venues in Cairo

Amoun Cabaret Shakira
Aquarius Cabaret Aziza, Shakira
Grand Hyatt Boat – Folklore Show only
Intercontinental/City Stars Fairooz Restaurant – Thursday nights only, Soroya
Memphis BoatLuna
Marriott Zamalek Outdoor Tent and Nightclub – Worked on and off after the revolution. Closed since early 2013
Meridian Haram Outdoor – Closed after the revolution
Merryland Outdoor – Closed from 2010
Mena House Nightclub/Restaurant – Closed after the revolution
Nile Pharoan Boat – Working one cruise a night if they have reservations Magda Monti, Mona Ghazi
Nile Maxim Boat – Working one cruise a night (the dancer you see is based on the number of reservation for that night) Leila Farid, Nesma, Noura (dancer on CD)
Parisiana Nightclub – Working, Lucy (by special request)
Pyamesa Nightclub – Closed
Semiramis Intercontinental Haroun al Rashid Nightclub – Worked on and off after the revolution. Closed in early 2013
Sheraton Cairo Aladdin Restaurant – Closed in 2010
Sunset Cabaret – Working Aziza, Shakira, Shams
VIP Cabaret, Nabila Cairo – Working, Safinez

Some more Cabarets that are working in Harem Street – Lido, Hormoheb, Tivoli, Aish al Bolbol, El Leil.
*Cabarets now have house bands. The dancer does not bring her own band with her.

Licensed dancers working in Restaurants, Boats or Cabarets in Cairo:

Aziza (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Kariman (Egyptian) – Haram
Leila Farid (American/Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Lucy (Egyptian) – Parisiansa (by special request)
Luna (American) – Memphis Boat
Magda Monti (Argentina) – Nile Pharoan
Mona Ghazi (Hungary) – Nile Pharoan
Nagwan (Egyptian) – Cabaret
Nesma (Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Noura (Egyptian) – Nile Maxim
Safinaz (Russian) – VIP Nabila Cairo
Shams (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Shakira (Egyptian) – Sunset, other Cabarets
Soroya (Brazilian, Egyptian) – City Stars Fairooz Restaurant


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