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Cairo is even livelier at night than during the day, and locals always know how to enjoy themselves. Alcohol isn’t a huge part of social life, but areas like Zamalek are popular with partygoers. In many venues, the distinction between bar, restaurant and club is a little blurred. Many locals head to a venue for a dinner around 1000, after which the lights dim and music gets louder for the bar to kick in. Bear in mind though that discos and bars close by midnight at the latest – only those with a tourism licence can remain open later.
The political upheaval since 2011 has, of course, affected Cairo’s nightlife somewhat. A curfew (after the removal from power of President Morsi) brought an end to much of the live music and revelry that were previously mainstays of the city. While some restrictions remain in place, most have now been lifted and Cairo’s energetic nightlife is beginning to return to normal.
Baladi (literally ‘people’s’) bars have long been popular, with many clustered around Downtown Cairo, especially around Midan Orabi. Baladi Bars (www.baladibar.com) is a good guide to local bars. Although safe, women visiting alone may feel uncomfortable in these male-dominated environments.
Otherwise locals head to traditional ahwas (coffeehouse) to smoke shisha and drink strong Arabic coffee. Families bring their young children out to while away the evening on soft drinks, especially around Midan Al-Hussein in Islamic Cairo or shopping streets such as Talat Harb.
Cultural centres dot the city with varied programmes incorporating lectures, films, music, exhibitions and other cultural events. A good source of information is the English-language edition of Al-Ahram Weekly (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg). The best way to buy tickets is from a hotel concierge or a local travel agency.
Bars in Cairo
This popular pub is one of the best haunts in the city for sampling Cairo’s baladi drinking culture. Evoking an old English tea rooms, with high ceilings and peeling yellow paint, it’s packed every night with a an eclectic crowd of young Egyptians and older intellectual-types knocking back bottles of Egyptian Stella, first brewed here in 1897.Address:
Tel: (02) 2392 0397.
Tucked away down a quiet side street, this split-level bar offers an informal, mainly vegetarian, ground-floor restaurant, combined with a first floor, lively bar with a DJ, which attracts young locals and wealthy students.Address:
Tel: (02) 2738 0080.
A down-to-earth bar also serving hearty food and meze, this smoky and cosy place has a good mix of locals and foreigners of all ages sipping whisky and cold beer.Address:
Tel: (02) 3735 9200.
Live music in Cairo
Cairo Jazz Club
This popular club, packed at weekends, offers a sophisticated mix of live jazz, blues, a DJ, drinks plus vegetarian food, in a dimly lit, smoke-filled environment.Address:
Tel: (02) 3345 9939.
El Sawy Culturewheel
Cultural centre with nightly live performances of classical Arabic, contemporary Egyptian bands, festivals and dramas, housing five separate stages. A real Cairo gem.Address:
Tel: (02) 2736 8881
Dance in Cairo
El Ghouri Arts Centre
Sufi dancing, more commonly known in the West as the dance of the whirling dervishes, can be seen on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings at the Ghouri Caravansary. Very popular with tourists.Address:
Dance isn’t a major art form but the top hotels put on belly dancing evenings for their guests, usually with dinner. This can be enjoyed in Las Vegas-style productions at several international hotels and on some of the dinner boats run by the hotels.Address:
Tel: (02) 3336 9700.
Theatre in Cairo
A range of engaging contemporary performances from domestic and international groups make Rawabet Theatre one of Cairo’s hottest venues.Address:
Tel: (01) 2750 70727.
Music and Dance in Cairo
Cairo Opera House
The city’s main venue for drama, dance, film and music is located in the National Cultural Centre on Gezira Island. Boasting some of the best acoustics and facilities in the Middle East, it has a year-round programme of opera, classical concerts, ballet and dance from national troupes. Aida, Verdi’s classic opera, was specially written for this venue. For concerts in the main hall, men must wear a jacket and tie.Address:
Tel: (02) 2739 0114.