Nightlife & the Arts in Cairo
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The Cairo cultural scene defies preconceptions. You can go to a concert of classical Arabic music in a restored medieval house, watch dervishes whirl in an old palace, then take in a performance of La Bohème by the Cairo Opera Company, and end the night on a club's dance floor. Layered around this traditional cultural season is a thriving and hip nightlife scene that's one of the best in the Middle East, with bars and clubs that attract vacationing Gulf Arabs as well as Western visitors and expats. Occasionally the two meet in a fusion style—a jazz concert of trumpet and oud (an Arabic stringed instrument), for example—that is unique to this city. For the latest listings and movies, check the English-language al-Ahram Weekly, Middle East Times, the weekly Cairo Times, or the monthly Egypt Today. Always call ahead to double-check performances because arrangements can and do go awry.
Cairo's nightlife scene is certainly cool, but most locations defy easy definition, moving seamlessly from early evening cocktail lounge to midevening eatery to late-night dance venue. The clientele is a cosmopolitan mix of wealthy Egyptians, foreign residents and workers, and a grab bag of international visitors. In summer, Cairo is a great playground for visitors from Gulf countries, many of whom come to enjoy the city's clubs and bars. Popular clubs usually close around 2 am, though some close earlier.
Bellydancing, which was once a favorite performing art, is falling out of favor with both Egyptians and visitors. Your best bet if you want to see tame versions of these once risqué performances is to visit one of the major hotels in the city. Belly dancers will normally gyrate for 15 or 30 minutes nightly at their signature Middle Eastern/Lebanese restaurants. At this writing, only a couple of hotels still offer dancers.
International coffee chains have arrived in Egypt, so there's no need to miss out on your favorite caffeine hit. However, Cairo has its own café culture, where you can be assured of a freshly brewed espresso or cappuccino, though you'll find that Egyptians will more often take tea.
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