Sober on the Nile
Egypt is dry and more than one sense of the word
This afternoon was clear and sunny, a usual occurrence in Cairo, and for me, the perfect time to have a beer in a riverside cafÃ©. I chose a well appointed open restaurant, with great views of the majestic Nile, complete with feluccas sailing upstream. Yet I fled disappointment and dry mouthed. Why?
Egypt is a mainly Muslim country, and while it is relatively liberal and secular, public consumption of alcohol is still a social taboo. There isn’t any beer, wine, or spirits in a normal riverside cafÃ©, or even most local restaurants. I knew this before I went, but it wasn’t until I was confronted by an embarrassed Cairo waiter whispering to me like I was asking for porn, that I realized exactly how dry Egypt is.
If you want a drink with dinner, or just a beer in the afternoon, you’re pretty much confined to either high-end Western hotels (I was in the Sheraton Galae Square) or Western-focused restaurants. Sidewalk cafes only serve tea or coffee and smoking hookah.
There are a few local bars, but no one recommended them as fun places for me to go. Instead, the Western restaurants become de-facto bars and then nightclubs as the evening progresses.
One night I went out with two local geeks to La Bodega, what I thought was a sedate restaurant. After our leisurely dinner, one of my companions and I retired to the more energetic bar. it was only when I wandered the restroom that I realized I was missing half the action.
A whole other section of the space was reserved for a cranking little nightclub, complete with beautiful men and smoking hot women. Many who were actually smoking. If there is a vice in Egypt, its cigarettes.
If you’re more into drinking alone, there are a liquor stores in town, but they mainly sell beer and wine. In fact, I was told on the flight in that if I wanted my own bottle, I should buy in duty free.
While I enjoy a drink, I wasn’t that in need to booze. It’s actually quite nice to be sober on the Nile.
Egypt is dry? Try visiting the Gulf.
Public consumption of alcohol is inappropriate and frowned upon. But you *can* get alcohol (at least local beer and wine) in places other than “western-focused” restaurants and bars. Watering holes are not as ubiquitous as where you live, but they are there if you know where to look 🙂