Well, we had a brilliant time watching Aziza last night! She was at the Sunset, near the Nile Pharon. We arrived at 1:00am to an almost empty club and were shown to a booth at the back of the room. It gradually filled up over the next few hours with men and their *cough* female companions *cough* , most of them bringing in bottles of whiskey and wodges of cash. As expected people didn’t really know what to make of us, Western tourists are a very unusual sight in these places, but the staff looked after us very well, bringing drinks and fruit (on the traditional foil swan platters!), escorting us to the loo, encouraging us to get up and dance – not that we needed much encouragement! Once it had been established that we really liked the shaabi we weren’t allowed to sit out any of those songs, but since most of the songs were khaleegy we didn’t have to do too much.
Most of the guests in the nightclubs are from the Gulf, and the singers and dancers tailor their shows accordingly. These people are the real big spenders. Our group doesn’t spend a lot of money in the clubs although I like to think that we provide some entertainment but the other guests have serious amounts of cash to throw. A man who arrived shortly before we left had around five piles of notes on his table, each the size of a brick. I had hoped to see him in action, but no such luck.
Aziza was the only dancer that night, I think she started at around 3:30am and we got a good long set. She had a lovely costume, a sparkly nude bodysuit with a white skirt and belt. A little like one Dina has worn…. She came out into the audience to dance for specific groups (ones throwing money!) and was kind enough to come and sit with us for photos. It was a bit difficult to see her at times because of people standing up in front of us, although Kay and the staff did their best to shoo them away to let us see. Aziza’s style has really developed a lot since I last saw her at Casino El Leil, she has a much stronger “voice” of her own and is more engaged with the audience. She finished with a lovely Enta Omri.
I think everyone enjoyed themselves although since I haven’t seen anyone else this morning I can’t say for sure! I’m really glad we all got to go to the club, not just because Aziza is one of my favourite dancers but also because it is the kind of experience you just won’t get anywhere else. I wouldn’t try and go to one of these places on my own, but going with Kay and Yasmina means there is always someone who knows what is going on and can make sure we have the best possible experience. It’s a side to the dance that we don’t see often but it’s an important (and fun!) side to see.
As expected this trip has been a whirlwind of activity, with hardly any time to draw breath, let alone blog! I’m writing this at around 23:40. We’ve just been out to see Luna on the Andrea boat and are waiting to go out again to see a new Egyptian dancer Sophia. She’ll probably be on at around 3:00
Most of our group arrived late on Sunday night. We’re staying in Zamalek, which is quite green and quiet by Cairo standards – the incessant beeping of car horns is noticably fainter here – Kay showed us round on Monday but noone has explored further on their own than the local shops just yet! There is a rather fine shoe shop a bit further out so I’m sure we’ll start wandering a bit further eventually. We stopped at a cafe to try koshary for our lunch, and ate at another local restaurant (Bram) for dinner. This place had been particularly recommended for their live music in the evening, a takt of oud and riq with a singer. They were happy to take requests, although they may have regretted this after some of us joined in with Akdeb Aleik an dMawood at the tops of our voices! They finished with a lovely version of Enta Omri as we left. This wasn’t the sort of place to get up and dance, but to listen and appreciate.
We also had to squeeze in a first round of costume shopping on our first day, visiting the designers Hanan and Eman to place initial orders so that we’ll have completed costumes by the end of the week (inshallah!). Hanan had some beautiful new silk designs, she pulled costume after costume out of the unprepossessing black bin bags, each eliciting louder and louder “Ooooh!”s from the watching dancers. Look out for them at a hafla in Cambridge or Edinburgh…We visited Eman at her workshop which was very interesting because we got to see all the people who tailor and embroider the costumes. I have ordered a dress which I am very excited about first fitting should be tomorrow.
Today most of the group went to the pyramids, which are still not very busy so they were able to go inside the Great Pyramid easily. There was quite a lot of hassle but their guide Nibal was able to fend off the touts.
Post club update – fantastic! The first dancer was nothing special but Sophia was very nice, even if was 4:00am and I could barely keep my eyes open. Quite surprising given how loud the music was, I swear each new band cranked the volume up a notch! We also saw around three singers inbetween dancers, but the best thing about going to these clubs is people watching. The big spenders with their bottles of whisky and wodges of £50 notes ready to throw, their younger female companions getting up on stage to demonstrate various degrees of dance skills…it’s fascinating. The table of funny foreigners attracted at least as much curious attention in return, we were quite an oddity. And that’s before we got up to dance I really hope the rest of the girls can make it to the next nightclub to see Aziza, I want them to have this experience!