Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Christmas Eve Part Deux (Eastern Style)

In Egypt, Christmas Day is on January 7th. Therefore, last night was Christmas Eve for all our Coptic Christian friends. Other than seeing a small choir of people at RCG wearing Santa Claus hats, practicing their lines for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” you wouldn’t have guessed it was an important day here in Cairo. Of course, only 10% of the population in Christian anyhow, many of which live in Upper Egypt, so you don’t find many Christmas slogans, snowmen, or Santa Clauses around the stores. Beyond that, Christians spend Christmas Eve at church and with their families. In fact, most churches have a Christmas Eve service that lasts a number of hours, ending with communion. The Coptic Cathedral down the road, for instance, held a service that lasted until 4:00am. Then, Christians gather with their families at the parent’s home and break their fast with a meal of lamb. (They have been fasting from meat and milk products for 55? days.)

Last night I celebrated Christmas Eve by going out for a night on the town with one of my best friends, Katherine Olson. Katherine is studying in Egypt for 23 days on an interim with students from eight Midwest colleges. Much of their time is spent in Luxor, Aswan, or Alexandria, but for the 10 or so days they are in Cairo I’m trying to see as much of her as I possibly can! As it has been quite lonely for me here, it has been such a joy to spend a couple hours with Katherine—it’s so good for my soul and joy!

Katherine and other student, Melba, decided to join me for a night at After Eight—an upscale restaurant/bar/night club in downtown Cairo. It was the first time I had been to a club in Egypt, but after hearing about the place from an AUC friend, I thought it would be good to check out—at least once. I knew it would be expensive with my budget, but my favorite music performer (Jai from Australia) was opening for Wust el Balad band, the most popular underground band in Cairo right now.

When we first arrived at the club, we were asked for our reservation name and number. Oh, no; we had no reservations. He let us in anyhow. The next man we approached also asked for our reservation name. Oh, no. Well, he let us in too. We soon found out why we were let in—at 9:30pm there was only one other person in the room. Of course, it didn’t take too long for that to change, as the nightlife in Cairo usually doesn’t begin until 11 pm and often lasts until early morning. Besides, it was nice to have the place to ourselves to listen to Jai’s smooth music and chat.

After Jai’s performance and before the Wust el Balad band started to play, I went looking for the restroom. As I was waiting in line, Katherine and I ended up talking with a couple Egyptian guys, and we found out one of them (Ahmed) is the sound technician for the club, and the other (Hany) was the percussion musician for Wust el Balad. They knew little English, and we knew little Arabic, but I was able to figure out the percussion guy thought I was beautiful. He said “Inti” (meaning “you”) and then pointed to a lamp and tried to explain something about lighting up a room with my beauty. It was nice, and being that he was in the most popular band in Egypt, I thought it was extra fun (or funny). I told him he should sing me a song, and he said he would. Ha. Later on, we realized Hany was NOT in the band. He was the back-stage manager. However, the name of the percussion player is indeed Hany. Little punk, he lied to us. Bummer.

Wust el Balad was a big hit, that’s for sure. There’s no good way to describe their music. Some have described them as “Egyptian Gypsy Kings.” Basically, it’s world music, blues, rock, a mix in one. Through song they express a huge range of topics, from love to politics to social commentary. One song, called “Magnoun” (Crazy), describes the frustration many Egyptians feel when they want to travel abroad but are unable to obtain a visa. One hit song of the night was about a man who wanted to get married but doesn’t have faloose (money). [You need money to buy a flat, and you need a flat to get married. No joke.]

One of the greatest aspects of the night was the DANCING! We danced the night away. In between Wust el Balad sets the club blasted American club music, and we were going crazy with our dance moves. I even stripped down to my tank top, showing the most shoulder skin in public since I left the states. (Don’t worry, it was okay in there—most people were foreigners and others were wearing less fabric than that.) Even though the place was expensive, I’d be willing to go back one more time just for the sake of getting to dance in a comfortable place.

We finally left around 2:00am—now Christmas Day—and grabbed a taxi. There was a taxi waiting just outside the door, so it didn’t take long. However, there was one issue. Another taxi driver who had wanted to get some business became upset. When our driver got out of the car to come around and open the door for us, the other taxi driver drove up next to the left side of our cab so that our driver wouldn’t be able to get into the taxi. Within a minute this started a big yelling argument. Finally a police man got involved and demanded for the other driver to back off. (At this point I understood what was going on—our taxi driver is hired by After Eight to drive anyone anywhere they want to go while the other guy was just waiting for someone to walk out the door.) The driver backed up and our taxi driver walked to his door to get in. Just then the other driver slammed on the gas and came within a foot of hitting our driver. It was ridiculously dangerous and stupid, and it got me fired up. As the driver back up again I jumped out of our taxi and ran over to his car, stuck my face in the passenger side window, and gave him a piece of my mind. He screamed, “You are stupid!” back at me. What a silly mess.


  • At 1/18/2006, Anonymous Red said…

    Sarah, Christian Copts fast for 40 days (only!!) before Christmas, the 55 days in lent before Easter
    Happy New Year


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