Chit Chat on the Nile: Last summer?
BY HEBA ELKAYAL
Last month, I did the most frivolous thing I have ever allowed myself to do: buy a plane ticket and travel to another country to attend a concert.
Lady Madge, aka Madonna, was set to give not one, but two concerts in Abu Dhabi as part of her MDNA world tour and a friend had a ticket to spare. I appreciate a good pun and I suspected Madonna’s tongue-in-cheek tour name wouldn’t involve anything related to the party drug MDMA but certainly a musical and visual high.
I have spent money recklessly on shoes and dresses but never money to attend a concert. I would always reason that a shoe gets a lot of hours of wear but a two-hour concert? What was the fiscal rationalization there?
Did I regret it? Not at all. Madonna’s performance was raunchy and shocking even to western expatriates in the 25,000 member audience but the theatrics and production of her concert show incorporated old classics, complex dance routines, handsome svelte back up dancers and incredible costume changes. There was a lot for a young fashion-loving female to eyeball.
Despite the half-naked torsos on stage of these fine strapping young men, my eyes were on Madonna’s petite frame. Time has not slowed Madonna down, she wore a leather one piece to start off her concert alternating between other leather outfits, pin-striped flared wool trousers worn with a men’s shirt, and a wire cone-bra corset made of metal on top when singing her classic song “Vogue.” Updating her iconic John Paul Gaultier designed boob-cone bra over her shirt with a more sculptured accessory seemed refined and mature.
Not too fast. Audiences of later shows were flashed by Madonna: She bared a nipple in Istanbul and flashed her toned derriere in Rome. We were thankfully spared in Abu Dhabi. Yet all the flesh and antics seemed reminiscent of some of Cairo’s tacky party-goers. As Egypt faces the new reality of an Islamist president taking over, some of Cairo’s summer parties would have any foreign visitor rightfully assume otherwise.
It’s good to see Cairenes out and about, and I enjoy a good rooftop party like any other young gal would, but as I enjoyed the music of DJ Amr Hosny at Event Republic’s “Summer in the City” party a fortnight ago, I wondered whether I ought to have cooed in a matronly tone to some party-goers “pull your hemline down dear, please.”
I appreciate the limited yet relative freedom of my fellow countrywomen wearing what they please, but occasional moments of propriety and class ought to be considered. It’s a sensitive time as everyone points fingers at one another, and I wonder whether it would be smarter to be more discrete even if being discrete meant compromising on one’s freedom a little for the time being.
Which brings me back to Madonna who held nothing back. At 53 she danced like a 20-year-old and flashed her bra telling the audience “take it all off, it’s so hot.” It was a hot and humid night and the audience laughed back, nervously. There was something so perfect about a fun and energetic concert away from Cairo to kick start my summer, but will we have to look abroad in future summers for entertainment and the ability to enjoy personal freedoms? Will some who can afford it travel to Beirut for an opportunity to go to beaches and parties as we, ironically, feel it’s politically and socially less contentious there than it is back home?
Ironically, Egypt always provided a summer destination for other Arabs during the summer months: beautiful beaches, parties in Agamy, open air movie theaters to watch romantic comedies with a cool sea breeze and a bottle of kazooza, soda, in hand. How will our lives and lifestyle change over the coming few years, I wonder?
Before heading off to the North Coast this year, I’ll be making the most of my time in Cairo by seeing friends, starting on my summer reading list and the occasional party lest it should be our last summer of this nature. I’ll be heckling DJ Amr Hosny to play Madonna tracks because her music always does manage to get people dancing on their feet, sans cone bra of course.
Heba Elkayal is a Cairo-based lifestyle and culture writer.