Finally, after living in Egypt for over two years, I managed to visit the British Community Association housed in a beautiful villa. It's home to the Brit ex-pat commmunity here in Cairo. We had to buy guest tickets to get in. I flashed my passport and said MK, my Sudanese boyfriend, was my husband and we walked in. Only yesterday we had spent the evening at a celebration of Sudan's Independence from British imperialsim. I was hoping to show him a more positive side to GB, but the drunken screaming coming from the balcony didn't auger well.
The villa is immaculately grand with a bar on each floor (of course). We made our way upstairs - several girls ran across the landing, reminding me of Newcastle on a Friday night, and then shot back again in a rush of sequins, feathers and lace. There was more bare thigh than I had seen in Egypt for six months. I felt ridiculously overdressed. Men hung around the bar, untying their black ties, eyeing the flatscreen football competing loudly with Van Morrison. It was, apparently, 'Charlotte's party.'
We had to buy coupons to get a drink. MK gawped at the wall lined with every drink you can't get here. We drank our beers in the beautiful garden with a suburban-neat lawn fringed with bottle palms, and listened to the raucous laughter of another drunken party behind us. Alcohol can only be drunk indoors in Egypt, so it was strange to have a beer and see the sky at the same time. It didn't feel like Cairo at all, and what a relief to get away from the streets' ubiquitous prying, judgemental eyes. This was where the British could let their hair down...I was beginning to feel at home.
It was getting chilly, so we returned to the upstairs bar, saluting a picture en route of the Queen, looking younger and worryingly sober and temperate. She probably knew the drunken direction her subjects were heading for. Rugby had replaced the football, Wales v England. Rugby is not well known in Egypt and rarely watched. I tried to explain the sporting relevance of a scrum to MK, but the sight of of men sticking their bottoms out and hugging each other, didn't add credibility to the game. One man with a northern accent told me he worked for a gas company. What did he think of Egypt? "Dunno love," he said. "Security is so tight around us, all I see is the inside of my flat, car and office. I'm allowed to come here for a night out. The only Egyptians I meet are at work, or here, behind the bar. The wife comes over sometimes, though."
Charlotte passed out on the floor, and a clutch of men rushed to revive her. MK looked bemused. Another woman slid across the floor on the hem of her skirt, while another wept in the toilet because she had lost her Zippo lighter. I wasn't quite sure how to explain the man wearing a kilt and sporren. He really was the most impressive sight of the whole evening. He was very nice - and said he hadn't worn his Scottish heritage ( his grandmother's green Mciness tartan) through the streets of Cairo yet. He recommended Glenfiddich for a nightcap.
At midnight there was a little ding on a bell, but no one called Last Orders Please! Charlotte was carried out while we sat with a group of teachers and talked about cats and dogs. 'Really nice place', MK said when we got home.
More of my poetry on http://www.warscapes.com/poetry/not-revolution