Egypsters الهبسترين المصريين
Beyond the dust covered walls of nineteenth century buildings and into the twists and turns of downtown Cairo’s hidden alleyways lies the beating heart of the Cairene hipster community. Galabiyyas fade away into tight, faded jeans and pastel colored shirts while Palestinian shawls take the place of hijabs. European ex-patriots mingle with youth – male and female alike – from the Egyptian upper class (and some CASA Fellows looking for a free party). Electronica drowns out any call to prayer while a few doors down amateur rappers drop beats and spew forth their verbal vomit.
This is a sliver of Egyptian culture I never saw in Alexandria. In truth, I doubted its very existence. Its essence, however, despite the shallow manifestations of foreign influences is uniquely Egyptian. Just outside the cement pillars of the music halls lies a sha`bi* café complete with its shisha pipes, cheap wooden tables, and colored plastic chairs. In these chairs sit the Egyptian youth – again male and female alike – who mingle and gossip while giving their ears a break from the modern rhythms and beats.
Clearly, Cairo – a city of upwards of 20 million people – is truly unique. I look forward to peeling back the layers and trappings of ages past as I wonder its alleyways in search of new, previously unknown slices of Egyptian culture.
UPDATE: There is an Egyptian twitter account entitled Egypster. Its motto: the only mainstream I know is the Nile.
*This word does not translate well into English. It’s meaning is near to those of folk and communal but also entails a certain lack of wealth and modernity.