2014 has been an eventful year for nightlife in Cairo, with the city’s bars & clubs shifting, changing and welcoming new competition. But amongst all the nonsense, hype and misinformed understanding of what makes a good party, bar or event, there are a few who have stood head and shoulders above the rest.
An obvious choice, maybe, but a worthy one nonetheless; the Nacelle hype machine can often go into overdrive thanks partly to a very loyal fan base but it very rarely disappoints.
The first half of the year Nacelle foray into unfamiliar waters with a rare live gig that saw UK group, Crazy P, headline an evening that also saw locals, the Meteors Project, perform their very first gig. This was soon followed up by another commendable edition of Sandbox in Sahel.
Nacelle’s Halloween party, ‘The Krypt’
This second half of the year saw B-Side return stronger than ever to give meaning to Wednesdays again, while House Sessions has been a pleasant mix between foreign and local DJs and Halloween party, the Krypt, was in no uncertain terms awesome.
Egypt has a tendency to overhype; everything from new venues, to foreigners, to their talentless sons and daughters. When Facebook was amok with news of Maadi’s third new bar of 2014 a few months ago, one couldn’t help but roll their eyes. This was a special case, too; building number 17 on Road 257 is haunted by the ghosts of Tipsy and Syren.
The customary reaction when the the three-litre personal beer tap emerges from behind the bar at the Tap
The Tap, however, have exorcised the demons of failure and have, thus far, made a pretty good go at doing what few have done; open and run an uncomplicated, gimmick-free bar. In the few months that it’s been open, the bar has amassed quite a following for its eclectic rota of entertainment and its solid food – namely the buckets of chicken wings. The Tap has even hosted a few editions of Nacelle’s B-Side – and those guys are hard to please.
CAIRO JAZZ CLUB
What can you say about Cairo Jazz Club that hasn’t been already said? It has its haters (plenty of them) but no one can argue the fact that CJC is the most consistent bar – nay, venue – when it comes to live entertainment; something that saw them receive the only Cairo 360 Editor’s Choice Award for Live Music & Entertainment in the Bar & Lounge category – and those Cairo 360 guys are harder to please than Nacelle.
Another satisfied punter at Cairo Jazz Club.
It’s been typically busy year for the CJC faithful; a longer than expected Dancestock, Movember and Christmas charity events, Beyond Stage gigs in collaboration with the Cairo Jazz Festival, El Fusion and countless impressive bookings have made this another excellent twelve months. Few, if any, bars can host Los Compadres doing Buena Vista Social Club covers one night, the stripped-down techno music of Ahmed Samy another night, then the fist-pumping house of Mohasseb another night after that and it all just work.
Say what you will about how Electrum Records has handled previous Student DJ winners, but there’s no refuting the fact that, whether by coincidence or by design, the competition gives young, hopeful button-pushers a platform that doesn’t really exist anywhere else in Cairo.
Not only does Student DJ put the spotlight on the unknown, but it also helps them learn and improve. All manner of house music dominates the lifeless consciousness of the masses when it comes to nightlife, but this year’s edition saw the shackles loosened a little giving some genuinely talented DJs the room to form their own musical personalities, with the proof being that many have already sporadically appeared at independent gigs across Cairo.
Cruelly shut down by the po-po in January, La Bodega was pushed towards the light into alcoholic heaven. As one of the oldest bars in Zamalek, it left a hole for many; it was one of the few bars you could take your mother to, when she needed to complain about your increasingly negligent father and your druggie brother.
La Bodega in Sahel
But out of the rubble, the La Bodega team emerged in an unlikely location: on the empty beer can-ridden shores of Sahel. After adding a touch of refinement to the human cattle show that is Sahel Season, La Bodega is even hosting a Christmas party. It’ll never recapture what it had at its venue on 26th of July Street, but it has defied all odds in the mix during what has been a year of new bars.
FAIRMONT NILE CITY
Before you sneer, let me make my case. Fairmont Nile City has earned its place on this list for what you might call ‘services to nightlife in Cairo’. Apart from stepping its game up with its own nightlife venues and events, the hotel remains, more than ever, the perfect location for event organisers. Just ask Back 2 Basics and Electrum Records, who have taken over the Skypool on numerous occasions this year; or even ask Event Republic whose weekly Summer in the City parties (which are rumoured for a return in 2015) caused weekly noise-pollution at the Nile-side inn before that.
Fairmont Nile City's O Bar
Even O Bar (stop sneering) has steadily found a loyal and committed fanbase that sees the club regularly packed, with gigs from Gawdat and Aguizi & Fahim showing that it’s on the radars of Cairo’s DJs. Well, that or they pay well.
VENT’s post-Ramadan renovations have taken it from a strangely comfy torture basement to a much more chilled and clean-cut bar, Back 2 Basics celebrated its first anniversary and have put on some decent parties and the Garden has recovered from a social media-based furore to become one of the most popular bars in the city. Elsewhere, Zamalek’s Riverside has found its footing and have booked some pretty good DJs in the second half of the year, while Beyond Entertainment found a balance with quality and quantity and held more parties than anyone else this summer.