I went out last night to a night club recommended by my driver here in Cairo, Egypt. He said I would hear great music and see some beautiful belly dancers. It would cost me about $300 Egyptian pounds to get in but that would include two drinks and a spread of fresh fruits to munch on while watching the show. When I got into the club, it seemed like I stepped into a small cruise ship ball room. A stage at one end, with long and short banquette tables all around it. We were one of the first ones to get to the club and it was 12:45am. We could pick any seat and he recommended we sit to the right of the stage, but not in front. This put us closer to the bands that were about to come out.
The first act was a beautiful female singer and a guy playing synthesized beats on a keyboard and adding in the classic Egyptian piano sound as the woman sang to an empty room. Another woman came on after her with the same guy on the keyboard but was not as good. The two singers rotated for a while going song for song as groups of people slowly started to filter into the club, smoking their cigarette, and finding their spots for the shows that are about to come our way. I noticed a lot of the groups were not sitting by the stage like we were,. they would sit towards the back or middle, and every now and again a group would sit next to the stage. I noticed an older egyptian gentleman come in with a woman and another man and sit at the corner of the stage. Then another gentleman came in with another man and sat at the table next to them. Both men had on what looked like million dollar suits. The club started to fill up with not only people and their expensive suites, but smoke as well, for in Egypt and most of Africa, you can still smoke inside buildings, and airports believe it or not. Shesha’s a.k.a. Hookah’s also started to fill the room as more and more tables were getting them dropped off and heated up at their tables.
The two starting acts called it a night and the keyboardist packed up as well and the next thing I hear is the house remix of LAMFO’s “Im In Miami Bitch”. What is going to happen next I asked myself and next thing I know, drum after drum starts getting dropped off on the stage. as as each drum was getting dropped off, stacks and stacks of cash started to come into the room. The same waiters that would bring your drinks and fruit, were now dropping off “bricks” of cash to several of the tables containing the men in fancy suits puffing on their Sheesha’s. and when I say “bricks”, I am saying about 20,000 to 40,000 Egyptian pounds of individually stacked $5 pound bills. ( in Egypt, it is pounds, not dollars )
When the band of drummers started playing this female Libyan singer came out and started to do her thing. The band was awesome with their 6 drummers and two keyboardist, and this woman was a pretty good singer even though I could not understand anything she was singing seeing she was singing in Arabic. That’s when it happened. It started to rain. The tables that contained the men in their fancy suits started to throw stacks of the $5 bills in packets of 100 onto the stage at the singer and her band covering the floor and tables around them with money. No one flinched, the band did not skip a beat, the singer did not miss a beautiful note, and no one at any table touched any of the bills that may have fluttered down onto their tables. They just continued to toss more and more stacks of money into the air and no one was taking any clothes off. At the end of her show, it appeared as thought she made off pretty well that night, and in my opinion she was not even as good as the first singer I got to hear there.
That band cleared out, and up next was a group of Muslim Sheikh’s. All dressed in brilliant white robes with the red and white checkered cloths on their head being held down by the black ring. They brought out their drums, lots of them and continued to pile onto the stage right next to us. They were all pretty young looking, including the male singer that accompanied them. As soon as they started their first drum beat, you knew they demanded your attention. The beats were fast, crisp and grabbed your attention like a firework in a silent midnight sky. Unlike the other singers before him that graced the stage that night, his voice carried over the music. His Arabic tones filling the room more than the smoke that was already suffocating the air. Immediately after he started to sing, the money started to fly. We now had a table right next to us with 5 guys at it, each one of them with stacks of $5’s that would not fit into a size 13 shoe box. One table would throw a stack, then another, then another. If too much money floated down from one table onto another, that table would grab a stack of $500 and toss it just at that table, like ” oh yeah, look at me”, and then throw another stack towards the stage.
The club had a group of kids hired just to run around the tables and stage and collect all the money tossed for each group that preformed. They would grab each bill with an eccentric style one at a time and stack them up in their hands and rubber band them together and toss them into a wooden box that they would empty after each performer. Some of the bills would go up into the air, and down on the laps of people enjoying the show. They would not touch the money that just fell upon them, but the kids would. They would just walk up and grab it off their crouch, from under their table and off their plates of fruit. Walk on the stage behind the performers and gather it up before and after it gets stepped on.
Amongst all the performers that night, the Sheikh’s had the most money thrown at them. And after comparing all the acts, they earned it. They rocked it that night, and there was nothing the kids could do to collect and clean up all the tossed stacks of money in the air fast enough. It was a bit depressing that night sitting next to the stage having $5’s rain down on me from the uncontrollable tosses of the guys with too much money. Walking around Giza and Cairo and seeing all the poverty, feeling all the taps of little kids hands trying to sell you a bracelet or just straight up asking for some change because they are hungry. And they ask with a tap and sad, hungry eyes, not the ” hey mister, can you spare some change” because they do not know what language you speak, they use know they do not speak it. It was a reality check of the “thick” line between the rich and the poor and just how much people disregard their fellow human. Then when you ask enough questions and find out the groups don’t even get the money that is tossed up in the air for their performance, they get 10%, really made me a bit sad. They were killing it, they were the ones practicing their rhythms and getting their beats down for the show, and they only get 10% what is tossed up for them. That was a true WTF moment for me, but it did not and will not surpass the WTF moment of why do people do this? Why do we go to an expensive club to “Make it Rain”? From what my driver said to me, they do this every day. Rich groups of men and women come into this club from all over the region and “make it rain”. Oblivious to the outside world of poverty right down the street from the same club that keeps their acts in the starving artist category, who are there doing what they do, to feed their families and survive in this unforgiving, unusual world we live in.
No one in that club knew me. I felt like I was only one in there who was not throwing money. I know for sure, I was the only white guy, the only american, although I was telling people I was from South Africa ( recommended by my driver), the only one with tattoos, and the only one paying most of my attention to the great music and style each band brought to that stage. I got smile after smile, head nod after head nod, raised hands with eye contact and a smile, and many offers to come play with each band due to my intense attention I was giving to the beats they were creating. The Sheikh’s pulled me onto the stage and gave me one of their hand drums and I instantly picked up their very difficult beat. Although when the song ended, I did add in an extra one beat by mistake. ( hey it was the first time I heard the song 🙂 ) It was a welcoming feeling from them. In America, 1/2 the population would assume they were terrorists because of how they looked. Not able to see beyond their own fear of differences, but with all of mine, they welcomed me into their show with open arms, and a spirit that I could feel without them even showing me.
Egypt has been wonderful. The people here are wonderful and show a spirit that although they are extremely poor, that are so rich with with a spirit that I cannot explain. They say how wonderful I am, I can only say I am a reflection of them. I wish I could help everyone. I wish I had a big coin or large bill for every had that extended, and every hand that did not. I wish I could change this corrupt world we live in where everyone had what every one else seems to have but them. The people that come to you are a reflection of you whether they interact with you or not. I feel by paying attention to that, I learned a lot from this trip, a lot about people, and a lot about myself.