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Fight Club 35

Bars, belts and beatings; Waleed Mowafi gets a warm welcome into Egypt.

Fresh off the plane from London, I took a deep breath as the ascertainable aroma that I can only describe as brown filled my nostrils. Nostalgic memories of exterior air conditioning units dripping filthy water on my head and florescent coloured gum of the Chiclet variety washed through my consciousnesses. My only previous experiences in the motherland were from the brief stints where I would be forced to come visit. I only learned of two locations during  these begrudging visitations: Dream Park, the dilapidated 6th October amusement park where dreams would actually go to die rather than be made, and Crepe Away, essentially just a cafe which did damn good pancakes, chicken wings, and also held parties for pre-teens. I had neither will nor eagerness to expand my horizons further than that pair of locales during my visits. However, at this particular juncture in my life, I knew I would be here for a while. As such. I thought perhaps it was time to be a bit more social and give these humans of the pyramid land a chance. Never judge a book by its cover, they say. They couldn’t all be as cretinous as I perceived them to be, “It’s time to make some friends…“ And thus my journey of discovery began.

It was roughly five years ago when I inquired about a decent place to go out for a drink in Cairo. An acquaintance had informed me that the “hottest club in town” was a venue named Club 35. I decided to give it a go; after all, I couldn’t waste away in front of the TV for the remainder of my days,  devouring pancakes from Crepe Away (though I easily could of). I arrived at the destination and, after standing at the door for roughly 30 minutes, as If I was awaiting approval from God himself to access the gates of heaven, I eventually gained entry to the ‘club’. It seemed to me more like a fucking 80′s disco-tech in Dusseldorf rather then the “hottest club in town”. The neon pink lights framing the ceiling bruised my soul. I didn’t get what all the fuss was about.

A - Club 35, Cairo B - Die Kleine Rosa Katze Disco Tech, Düsseldorf
Despite my reservations, I casually started making my way through the neon pink watering-hole of my demise when something rather odd came to my attention. 90% of the males were adorned in Ralph Lauren button downs and massive Hermés belts. Ginormous H’s hung proudly over their cocks as if to contemptuously announce: “Yes you cunt, I have in fact purchased a $450  item of clothing to essentially hold my trousers up. LOVE ME!” I looked down at my attire. I was wearing a baby blue band t-shirt from an obscure Brighton-based electro-collective called Help She Can’t Swim, complete with pink flowers, a shabby grey cardigan which I had purchased from a thrift store in East London and very, VERY skinny jeans. Now, bare in mind that nowadays skinny jeans are as common as the infestation of Cairo street cats that roam our city, but back then I hadn’t seen them on anyone here. So I must of stuck out like a sore thumb as I continued to make my way through the  cluster-fuck of cloned males, catching stares as if I was a black man who had causally paraded into a Grand Dragon, white supremacist, Klu Klux Klan assembly. I kept hearing this word ‘khawal’. “What does ‘khawal’mean?”,  I thought to myself. “Perhaps it’s Arabic for stylish?” I looked down at my ensemble. “Yes, that must be what it means, stylish!” Another thought that was circulating through my brain box was “Surely those buckles would dig into their stomachs when they sit down? That can’t be comfortable. What is the need for such massive belt buckle?’” I tried not to dwell too much and continued on with my night.
That's money, bitch!

I was introduced to a mixed group at one of the larger tables in the club. One particular girl caught my attention. Big green eyes, flowing brown hair. Definitely a beauty. I lent over to one of the guys on the table and casually inquired as to who she was. He smiled and said, “She’s taken man.” The night dragged on as I kept hearing the same recycled David Guetta mixes and Arabic tracks, corrupting my ear drums. I zoned out whilst trying to analyse as to  why everyone was eating copious amounts of sushi and drinking profuse amounts of whisky simultaneously. Was that normal behavior? Was this just Egyptian etiquette? I was starting to get bored and complacent so I decided to go have a chat with the beautiful girl I had noticed earlier. Now, what I had yet to learn was the full extent and scale of male egos in Cairiene society: these guys literally had testosterone dripping out out of their eye balls. I casually started talking to the girl, being as charming as I can. My accent seemed to help and I was starting to get somewhere – she’s starts to laugh at my observations and jokes. I think to myself, “This is going well,” so I suggest we take a shot together. I wander off to find a waiter. When I returned, a few minutes later, this is what unfolded…

Before I could even blink, I found myself up against the wall with a some guy’s hands around my neck, accused of coming on to the aforementioned  green-eyed beauty. It quickly occurred to me that he must be the girl’s Neanderthal of a boyfriend. He was making a curious, loud, snorting noise and shouting Arabic insults at me which I was yet to understand. So naturally, I start to laugh. Then, of course,  the beating began. He managed to get in a couple of hefty punches to my face before the bouncers interjected and we were both outside. Time seemed to have sped up and I found myself face-up on the pavement outside the First Mall, with a big shiny H flying towards my torso. Needless to say it was a harrowing experience.  The pain didn’t really stop as he continued to whip me with his shiny Hermes belt whilst shouting things like “maluush zobr,” which I later found out to meant that I didn’t have a penis, which is quite saddening because I thought I did… And, of course, “khawal,” which I still presumed to mean stylish at the time. The whole painful debacle eventually ended.

 
That, for me, was the beginning of a LONG road of discovery into just how deeply contemptuous, narrow-minded and egotistical the humans in this society are. Needless to say, there were many more awkward moments, perplexing situations and altercations in the years to come. But hey, at least I knew what the big ‘H’ belts were for. Whipping stylish people…