There was a time when Pizza Pomodoro, Absolute, Tabasco, Piano Piano, and Cheers were the "in places" in Cairo. Then came another time when La Bodega, Le Pacha, Sangria, Sequoia, High Heels, Latex, Club 35 and La Pietra became the "see and be seen" hangouts – each for its own lifestyle. During those times I was there – all over town – and I enjoyed it! I loved getting dressed up, made up, and jazzed up for an outing. There was something sexy about not being stopped at the entrance of "high society" clubs that it almost got to my head! I still reminisce over the concocted scent of cigarettes and expensive perfume that hung over my hair the morning after the outing. I cannot help but smile when I muse over that whistling sound of silence after a loud gossip-filled night.
The girls – like me – paraded their Guccis and Pradas, talked about their high end careers, hard-to-get guys, fashion, and hairdresser stories. The guys showed off their cars, cigars, designer shirts, muscles, chest hair, and women. I always felt that there was a camera rolling at the back of our minds and that our every move was being captured and aired on another galaxy. The mental images that I have of those days look so unnatural that they make me laugh – A bunch of lookalikes socialites posing for a peek-a-boo alien who is most probably laughing his ass off!
I seem to have lived those days in a faraway place in another lifetime on another planet when I was living in someone else's body. If I was to admit to leading this life at one point of time, I cannot recall when exactly and precisely how I shifted from a face you would expect to see in Mojito and Purple to that girl you see in "super bee2a" places downtown! It is ironic how most people associate "classy" people with "classy" outings when, in reality, the more self aware you are and the more at ease you are with yourself the more drawn to "bee2a" places you become!
Did I confuse you?
Let me elaborate!
When I was a hostage of social norms and societal classification of what's "A class" and what's not, I held on so hard to appearances – that included brand names, designer this and that, fashion, and latest trends. Along with my business card, those were the things that gave me my identity. This need to fit in and that urge to belong and to be recognized were stronger than the person who shied away from me every time I looked in the mirror. Bit by bit I began rebelling against how society defined gender relations and bit by bit I realized that I really do not fit in. My rebellion hit my hair first; I have curly hair and so be it! Then my wardrobe got infected with comfortable clothes! How dare I dress for my own comfort! Later on I recoiled from the "elite" scene and I grew hyper allergic to anything that is fake – be it people or attitudes!
The moment I embraced myself – that magical moment when I realized that what I wear or where I am seen does not make me who I am – I discovered the beauty of authenticity! Yes! A world that is not retouched or photo-shopped does exist. You just need to have the courage, confidence, and inner security to venture into that other dimension where self-awareness and mental nudity does not intimidate you. It is truly amazing how being "A class" is inversely proportionate to how comfortable in your skin you are! The more you hold on to that outer shell the more you throw dust over your core!
A friend from the old days called me and wanted to go out. I suggested Le Grillion. He did not know what I was talking about. I told him that it is a restaurant downtown and I gave him directions. He showed up and curled his lips the moment we set foot in the place. He could not stand the sight of people who were just people! He was offended that I met him in "such a place". He even thought that I was embarrassed to be seen in public with him and that was the reason behind my choice! He sat there and refused to eat because the menu looked "disgusting". He spoke down to the waiters and stared at people. I empathized with him … but we never spoke since then!
Le Grillion is my favorite "bee2a" outing downtown. I go there and no one cares who I am, what I am wearing, who I am with, or what we are saying. The scent of the shisha, the beer, the cigarettes, and the heated conversation fill the air. I enjoy watching people who talk and walk like people; they laugh, cry, shout, snort, and have facial expressions! I love their facial expressions! They are not "bee2a" my dear friend! They are human! Something that you missed out on completely!
My summer preference is "El Borsa"! This is another downtown hotspot. A pedestrian area, intersecting streets, outdoors seating area, plastic chairs and tables, shisha, and stray cats are what make this place what it is to me – home! You sit there and you get to actually see Egyptians! Yes – you get to see those people that you do your best to avoid seeing in your day to day life. Suffering and frustration along with dreams and resilience are carved on their faces. You hear them arguing politics, art, books and matters of love and life as they sip on their tea or blow smoke out of their shishas. They cuss and curse as their vibrant words fill the air with life – and I love their diversity! There are other places that I frequent like Estoril, Odion, and The Greek Club! I have been to Café Riche and El Horreya but I did not develop an attachment to neither of them.
I have walked the streets of downtown Cairo and enjoyed being human. That social divide between "la crème de la crème" and the "mob" confuses me. Who said that the higher you go the better you become? Who said the poorer you are the less intellectual you have to be? If being embraced by the elite means that I have to demolish all traces of my character and become a copycat of some celebrity, if it means that I have to be fake, and if it is synonymous with being a snobbish self delusional Barbie, then I am proud to say that I am a "bee2a" person who has "bee2a" friends and hangs out in "bee2a" places!