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In the clubs: in Cairo and across Africa, the nightlife gets hot long after the shops close.

When the sun goes down across Africa, the heat turns up on the club scene. From Cairo to Cape Town, young Africans, Arabs and Western expats wear out dance floors to an intoxicating soundtrack of traditional music merged with today's reggaeton and hip-hop beats.

Cairo, the most populous hub in North Africa, is a crossroads for the disparate cultures, tribes and faiths that form a patchwork across the continent. You can hear a half-dozen languages spoken at most any cafe and the array of after-dark activities available here reflect the cosmopolitan feel of this smoggy capital.

Egyptians just might be the most nocturnal creatures on the planet, and Cairo's eclectic nightlife doesn't really get going until after midnight. By 2 a.m., the party really starts to groove.

Depending on the night of the week, there are salsa, tango, opera, break dancing, belly dancing, ballet and oud performances. Alcohol is readily available, though many devout Muslims abstain, preferring to get their buzz from the throbbing dance music of Cairo's many clubs.

Pick your own mood music for an evening out after gazing at the pyramids--hip-hop, reggae, North African rai, Middle Eastern jazz, Nubian folk songs and Sudanese blues. Don't plan on heading home until the dawn calls to prayer sounds from this ancient city's legendary mosques.

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Here are a few of Cairo' s most sizzling nightspots

AFTER EIGHT RAI/JAZZ/BLUES Downtown, 6 Kasr el Nil Street Reservations recommended

The speakeasy feel of this legendary club begins with its location--at the end of an unmarked alleyway in gritty downtown Cairo. Go on a Thursday night and watch the Sahara band move the over-30 crowd with the lilting melodies of rai, a North African blend of jazz and blues. On other evenings, a fierce female deejay spins funk and soul classics until about 2 a.m. From then on, it's an Arabian night till sunrise, with scandalous belly dancing and the Lebanese debke line dance. The crowd is relaxed and welcoming to foreigners, often pulling tourists onto the floor for an impromptu twirl. It's also gay-friendly--one of the club's regulars is a fabulous male dancer who hops onto a table and commands the spotlight with a shimmy that would put Shakira to shame. The menu is as distinctive as the venue. The truly adventurous might sample the stuffed pigeon, scrambled calf's brain or beef tongue topped with a garlic tomato sauce.

AFRICANA HIP-HOP 41 Pyramids Road in Giza Opens at 11 p.m., Thurs.-Sun.

Pay your cover to the beefy guys at the door and walk downstairs to the basement for an experience that's underground in the truest sense of the word. This is the intersection of Africa and the Arab world: the pulsating, seedy domain of Somali prostitutes, Darfur refugees, Kenyan day laborers, Turkish engineers, European diplomats, Egyptian break dance crews and Saudi girls gone wild. Mostly an after-hours spot, the crowd gets live after 2 a.m., when young Arabs and Africans bounce to Soulja Boy and Lil' Wayne. Don't let the occasional fistfight scare you off, these homesick exiles are more interested in dancing than dueling. Africana is ground zero for the Egyptian hip-hop scene, but the music fades into sub-Saharan love songs as the night wears on.

CAIRO JAZZ CLUB JAZZ 197 26th July Street in Agouza 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. www.cairojazzclub.com

This landmark club is where the dread-locked, boho-chic set goes to smoke endless packs of cigarettes and lament their unfinished plays, novels and albums. Leftist opposition activists drown their political frustrations in locally brewed Stella beer, while humanitarian workers swap Darfur stories between sets of the in-house jazz ensemble. Nearly everyone speaks English and few adhere to strict Egyptian social customs, so it's not uncommon to see steamy displays of affection that would be taboo on public streets. The music is probably the best in town, with lively jam sessions most nights of the week and occasional appearances by the beloved local band, Wast el Balad, which mesmerizes fans with Middle Eastern beats laced with the influences of Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Bob Marley and other maestros. It's buy one, get one free at happy hour from 7 to 9 p.m. every night of the week.

SEQUOIA TRENDY BAR 3 Abul Feda Street, Zamalek 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Reservations recommended

Looking for a little serenity after Cairo's noisy bazaars, sticky weather and overzealous vendors? Head to the island neighborhood of Zamalek and take refuge at this immaculate open-air lounge overlooking the Nile. Egyptian fashionistas nibble on sushi and sip the club's signature chilled pomegranate juice. Businessmen take off their ties and unwind with bubbling, apple-flavored hookahs. Couples can steal some alone time in one of the palm-covered nooks, warmed by heat lamps in the winter and cooled by fans in the summer. This is the ideal spot for lazy Friday mornings, the equivalent of Sundays in the United States, with a jazz brunch and finger painting for children. After dark, Sequoia becomes the see-and-be-seen hub, where huge flat-screen TVs show international soccer matches as ambient music wafts through the room to soothe away the stress of the city.

--Acclaimed war correspondent Hannah Allam is Cairo bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers and she ran the Baghdad Bureau for Knight Ridder Newspaper during much of the Iraq War.
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Author:Allam, Hannah
Publication:Ebony
Article Type:Directory
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Jun 1, 2008
Words:893
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