Who Comes to Cairo to go to Bars Anyway?

I had wanted to comment on this silly article from the BBC about the decline of Cairo’s bar scene but of course AMS beat me to it. You can read the article but you probably already know what it is going to say. Here’s Rob’s take:

1) Islam  not “Conservative Islam.” The story blames some kind of  new wave of “conservative”  Islam as if Egyptians are suddenly abandoning centuries of tolerance, cosmopolitanism and bar crawls only  after coming across newer, more dogmatic interpretations of religion.   There is no interpretation of Islam that says going to a bar and drinking alchohol is permitted.  Does that mean some do it?   Yes, of course.  But the Egyptians who drink alchohol fully admit that this is a slip or an inconsistency and notice how scrupulously they avoid it during Ramadan.

2)  The myth of the Golden Age. At no point in Egyptian history have normal Egyptians ever frequented bars and nightclubs in signifigant numbers.  Some  Egyptians do think of the 1930s and 1940s as a Golden Age, but because of the belief that this was the only era  in modern Egyptian history with a functioning democracy.  Not, as Western writers keep implying, because there was a thriving nightlife.  Furthermore, the main patrons of these clubs and bars during this period were British soldiers, colonialists, and only a very small portion of Egyptians.  The difference between now and pre-1952 is that the early period was dominated by foreign values which made it more socially acceptable for the very small percentage of Egyptians who drank (mostly upper class) to do it openly.  Once the foreigners were kicked out, it was only natural that local values would return.

3)  Who’s angry about this? It’s certainly  not Egyptians.  This is a total non-issue in Egyptian media and Aswany’s view on this being a bad thing is not shared by the overwhelming majority of Egyptian intelectuals.   Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not some puritan and sometimes I wish Cairo was more like America.  But it’s not.   It’s a different culture, so complaining about those differences in these kinds of articles is pretty pointless in my book.

Agreed, this is Alaa Al-Aswany journalism.

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