When I was thinking of what to write about in this article, I reached the conclusion that the best place to start searching for an adventure is undoubtedly the old Cairo. The Azhar, Kal3a, Mosquie, and the rest of these wonderfully culture saturated areas. So I decided to take my mother and my daughter so as to examine the results of my adventure on each generation seperatly and as objectively as I could.
So there we were: grown woman, young mother, and 2-year- old child walking through the dense crowds of the Azhar street, criss crossing through pedestrians, cars, men with manual forklifts ( those metal L-shaped frames with wheels and usually loaded with triple their intended load). Stopping every once in a while to admire the abundant merchandise scattered along the sidewalk. We would inquire about an object which caught our eye and then proceed to walk away, with the street seller yelling out half the price he had formerly disclosed in the aim of getting us to stop and shop. It is really amazing how many beautifully hand-crafted knick knacks, most of which are completely useless and a few of which are utterly amazing and exotic, can exist on one long winding street which dominated the activity of Cairo long, long ago.
Anyways, getting back to our story… we walked until the pedestrian bridge on Ghouri Street, and about twenty meters after it stood a tall, really old looking building which was located not directly on the main road, but slightly inside a small alleyway. It looked particularly odd as it was exceptionally large and great interest was used to light it with strategically placed lights to emphasize the beauty of the structure and the history it protected.
You start to realize the great beauty of this place from the moment you step inside. Apart from the security thing that you have to walk through, the building is completely historic. The ceiling is made out of a collection of archs gathering together to form an Islamic-like design, which is accented by the use of two- tone bricks. You enter into a great hall which holds a stage, a historic water fountain on the floor, and rows upon rows of chairs.
We were told that the show begins at 8:30. Naturally we asked what show?? And the answer was a “Tannoura dance”. So we sat as the rows began ti fill up with people of all nationalities. We were surounded by people from all walks of life and from every corner of the world.
Naturally my 2 year-old got restless as we had arrived almost forty five minutes early, so that time was spent running around the hall, into and out of the gift shop, and everywhere in between. So in general, unless your toddler is an angel, let them stay at home to get a good night’s sleep!
After countless attempts to calm my toddler down, the show finally started. And in the words of the oh-so–famous Janice ” OH…..MY……GOD ” I was spell struck. Never in my life had I experienced something quite as enchanting as this!!
First off, the performers come out with an assortment of folkloric instruments: a rababa, drums (tabla), sagat, nay, etc, etc and perform the most spectacular piece of pure Egyptian music. Seriously, the music is so captivating that you can’t help clapping, tapping your feet, or if you are a little daring, shaking your shoulders!!! Afterwards the performers stand out to do little solos with the rest of the group answering back as some sort of musical conversation, which sounds so natural.
Secondly, a vocalist comes out to the balcony chanting the most traditional old Islamic tawashee7, while the rest of the performers start dancing and playing in circles around the stage. The whole atmosphere is bewildering! As I looked around at the faces looking up at the stage, it was like the whole audience was in a trance, soaking up every drop of magic.
Then after the chanter ends his act, the dancers appear, starting with group dances and then reaching solo performances by the main dancers. The dancers turn and turn, creating the most amazing shapes and colors with their beautifully detailed tannouras. The whole show was spectacular, enchanting, and one which I will never forget. I walked out of there completely bursting with pride to have such captivating heritage and seeing the effect of it on all the foreign faces who were madly clicking on their cameras, trying to freeze the moment in all its glory.
The show is performed only two days a week (unfortunately). It is performed on Saturdays and Wednesdays at exactly 8:30 pm….AND I MEAN 8:30 pm, and it lasts about an hour and a half. You should probably get there about ten to fifteen minutes early to secure good seats. The seating is up to you, and get this….. It is completely FREE!!!!
I did NOT expect that at all, i was also really amazed at the standard that they had maintained. The performers were completely professional and also… spotless!! The costumes were impecibly clean and so was the wekala itself. That’s just goes to show that we are capable of great things, and we need more of them!
– Keep an eye out for the guy with the ‘sagat’. He is incredible! He’s totally passionate about what he does and it is soo visibe from the performance to every one watching. He is utterly hillarious and totally steals the show!
– The gift shop is not related at all to the show. I went in to try and get a memento of the day, and found nothing at all that had anything remotely related to the place or the show.
Seriously people! This is our history, our heritage, and our culture, so go and be proud of it and watch others be fascinated by something we took for granted. And trust me, you will not be disappointed. It will be an experience you won’t forget! I’m sure I won’t!