All / Originally Posted on Skirt

Cairo Nights

Baghat ‘Ali Street is one of my favorites during the day, a wide verdant and quiet avenue full of trees, climbing flower vines and stately old embassy houses set back from the road.  At night, though, much of it is so poorly lit it’s almost pitch black until a car comes along.  Some of the embassies have elegant globe lights gracing the tops of their fences, but other than that you’re literally whistling in the dark.  Good thing I bought my trusty flashlight yesterday.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

After some spaghetti arabiatta at Didos I came back down Baghat ‘Ali, enjoying the smell of night jasmine wafting over the fence of what might be the Yugoslavian embassy.  As I was walking, bless my soul, I felt a little coolness in my fingertips as the breeze touched them.  Is fall in the air?


Around 10:30 some REALLY LOUD music came blasting into my apartment, drowning out the air conditioner even.  I thought it was the neighbors having a party at first but I ran out on the balcony and it turned out to be coming from the floating boat restaurant across the Nile!

I’m pretty sure it was a wedding party.  It was too far away to make out the people with any real detail but I saw somebody in a big white dress and several women in matching red dresses, like bridesmaid’s dresses. 

The whole party was dancing on the boat dock encouraged by the DJ.  I took some video with my flimsy camera but it’s too far away to come out clearly, especially at night.  Part of me wishes I had a real camera with a big lens, but then I’d feel like I was in Rear Window.  Anyway, I could see everybody hopping around, men and women.  I could hear the intermittent zhaghareet of the women (click the term for instructions on how to do this yourself), and periodically the whole crowd whistled and cheered. 

Behind the party across the road from where they were in Mohandiseen I could see people all piled on top of something – a car? the roof of a kiosk? – trying to peer over the trees and fencing around the restaurant to see the party.   On my side of the Nile a group of young men were lounging against a railing for a time, watching the party and even getting up enough spirit to contribute a few dance moves themselves before sauntering off, tomcat-like, to lounge someplace with more girls walking by.  (That’s a classic example of the kind of thing I’m not allowed to say in my PhD: I can’t actually say that they were looking for girls unless I know for a fact that this was the case.  They could potentially just have been standing there because they like watching the guards at the HSBC bank across the street, or maybe they were performing the time-honored tradition of spitting off the bridge into the water.  But they were boys, and they were loitering by the side of the road, and frankly that’s enough evidence for me!) 

I stood on my balcony for a while watching the festivities, enjoying it partly for the party atmosphere being pumped across the water and partly because THAT’S MY RESEARCH!!  They’re doing it!  Surprisingly I didn’t see anyone in the other apartment buildings nearby out watching the party, though I know the music was loud enough to attract their notice and I have a fairly wide panorama of the nearby buildings.  Deciding I wasn’t in danger of being observed I shimmied around a little myself, enjoying the music.

Unfortunately the boat was a little too far off to really make out the whole scene clearly for serious research-observation purposes but it was still an exciting sight.  (And how awesome would it be if I could get my PhD by sitting on the balcony and taking notes?!  I’m in!)  Around 12:30 the loud music turned off and they all went inside, but I’ve no doubt they were rollicking the boat until well into the small hours. 


Tonight I’m meeting a Scottish belly dancer friend who works here on one of the dinner-and-a-show-boats.  The boat docks just before midnight so we’re planning to meet up around 12:30 at the Cairo Jazz Club.  After a year of having an 11:30 PM curfew because I worked in a residence hall at Exeter, the adjustment to all this late-night socializing is proving to be a challenge.  I wonder what new dancing adventures there are in store this evening!

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