Thursday, January 05, 2006
Several readers were surprised that there are bars and pubs in Egypt. We Egyptians always complain that people in the West tend to believe that there is nothing in Egypt except ancient status, tents, and camels running around in the desert. If you watched the movie Team America, you will know what I mean! So I thought it would be a good idea to give you an idea of how it is like here.
Bars and pubs are divided into 3 categories. First, there are bars in most 3-5 stars hotels. Tourism is a major contributor to our economy and the presence of drinking venues is crucial. I believe than even if fundamentalists ruled us, they will still cannot afford to ban alcohol and chase away millions of foreign tourists. They could however adopt the drinking laws of countries such as Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates: only non-Muslims are allowed to drink there.
Second, there are the upscale bars and pubs catering to Egypt's upper class and tourists. These bars are very clean and they don't differ much from an English pub in London or a bar in New York. Third, there are the cheap bars for the lower income class Egyptians. However, rich "non-western" oriented Egyptians (a rich vegetables trader for example) also opt to go to these traditional bars since they don't feel comfortable going to the western oriented bars of the elite. This is the type of bar I took Michael Totten to.
The "drinking world" of Egypt started with the influx of European migrants and entrepreneurs at the end of the 19th century. The first brewery was established over 100 years ago by a Greek businessman. As the Egyptian society started to get more liberal, drinking became a normal thing to Egypt’s upper and middle class citizens. Just a mere 40 years ago, pubs and bars were found everywhere even in public clubs. Characters in old movies appeared in pubs and couples in romantic films often celebrated their wedding with popping a Champaign bottle.
A drastic change occurred ever since the society started to get poorer and more “religious”. Bars were removed from clubs and they became less and less visible on Egypt’s streets. The “drinking population” shrank considerably and those who drink are frowned upon by many today.