Why No Stop in Cairo?

Iron Maiden, a  great band,  is  playing_Dubai February 13th.   I know for a fact, however,  that there are a lot of angry  rock  fans in the Arab world, especially Egypt,  who are wondering why Iron Maiden’s  Mid-East tour consist of just one city — Dubai — that doesn’t really qualify as “Middle Eastern.”     I just had a conversation with Mr Egypt, a rock fan and an Egyptian nationalist, and he’s more than a little annoyed that little upstart noaveuxe riche Dubai gets an Iron Maiden show while his country, the region’s cultural capital, gets nothing. 

This raises an interesting question — what prevents Iron Maiden, and in general other big rock acts, from playing Cairo or even a more expansive regional schedule?   After all,  big names have played Egypt in the past:  The Scorpions and Skakira have made appearances in recent years  and the Greatful Dead, one of the most popular rock acts ever,  did   three_epic_concerts in Cairo  back in ’78’.    So what’s the problem here?  

1)  The anti-Devil worshipping factor?    This was my initial assumption.   Egyptians have many positive qualities but they also have a tendency (generally speaking)  to be annoyingly judgemental of those who look differently.  They might not say it, but when many people see someone with long- hair and tattoos they are thinking “deviant, devil worshipping godless freak.”    Back in 1997, for example, 100_heavy_metal and rock music fans were arrested  on suspicions of satanic worship and many  politicians jumped on the soapbox talking about how much this was an affront to local morals. 

There is a debate within Islam about what kind of music, if any, is permitted.  Many Islamic scholars say its never permitted.  Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a moderate,   says  it ok as long as it has an Islamic message, meaning he considers almost all Arab pop music (ie Nancy Ajram, Amr Diab)  as problematic.   I’m not sure we could say Iron Maiden’s music has an Islamic message, but if you listen   closely to the lyrics of their classic_song, alot of Egyptians could at least  sympathize.    After all, it’s not as if they are Marlyn_Manson.

And Mark Levine makes a great point in his awesome book:   Unlike in the 1990s, today,  the Brotherhood is more concerned about making allies against government oppression, so they’re not going to make a big show about what kind of music people listen to. 

2)  Or is it a question of Business? 

I think this is the main reason no good rock acts come to Cairo.  It comes down to business and a lack of infrastructure.  After all, Iron Maiden is a band which draws crowds of 300,000 — in South America.  But once you’ve reached that stature you don’t go places unless your guaranteed of a certain degree of success but  Egypt just doesn’t have the appropriate music facilities for these kinds of acts.   Big name Arab singers don’t make the bulk of their money from touring  and perform much more low-key concerts on 1 or 2 k seat auditoriums. 

Second, I doubt concert organizers could guarantee the sale of 15-20 k tickets in Egypt, probably the minimum necessary to make it worthwhile.  Yeah, the  Egyptians who frequent the Harley Davidson shop in Zamalek would probably attend.  I definitely would if I was in Cairo.  I would be the first person in line to buy tickets.   Mr Egypt would probably be the second.  But this is a pretty small bunch, so, if I was in charge of scheduling Iron Maiden’s concerts, and my job depended on picking places that would sell enough tickets to make a profit, I would probably skip Cairo.

6 Responses

  1. During study abroad in Egypt, my friends and I attempted to partake in the lesser known, but highly popular Cairo concert scene. A couple of these experiences led us to rock or metal concerts with a few fishnet wearing hijabis. I found this scene exciting and peculiar and wish that I had had more time to investigate the dark subculture(s) of the Egyptian youth. It’d be good for a research project.

    Anyways, when I returned from Cairo I was engaging in conversation with a friend about Led Zeppelin and found out that Page & Plant did a show or concert in Cairo with an Egyptian Orchestra. I ended up with a copy of the CD which includes a song titled ‘yallah’, as well as other hits such as Kashmir, No Quarter, and more. The CD is called ‘No Quarter: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded’. It can be found on Amazon.

    So at the very least there have been some nibbles on Cairo. The issue certainly isn’t venue space as I have seen the new International concert venue in Nasser City and am sure that there are more places including the iconic Giza Pyramids to play at. Even if nobody shows, they could at least film it and put out a DVD like Pink Floyd’s Live at Pompeii, though I can guarantee that won’t be the case; Europeans can easily obtain cheap tickets to the Middle East, and their rock crowd is certainly down for a good show in the desert.

  2. They could always play a stadium. Cairo’s got to have a 100K soccer stadium, right?

  3. Little Boy, Adrian,
    Thanks for the info on venue space. There’s no doubt that there are big stadiums, Cairo Stadium is 80k or so, but the question is whether the venue is appropriate for a concert. Its a question of lighting, acoustics. I dont know the answer, but I dont think concerts have been held in Cairo Stadium.

    And its not just as simple as finding the place. Then you’d have to negotiate with the owners of the stadium, and that’s a whole nother ballgame.

  4. […] Posted on February 27, 2009 by Rob A couple weeks back I wondered by Iron Maiden wouldn’t_come_to_Cairo.   Probably for the same reason that the Akon Concert in Cairo was a disaster.   Unless a […]

  5. […] does Cairo Posted on July 6, 2009 by Rob A couple months back I wondered_why_Iron_Maiden wouldn’t be playing Cairo, but would Dubai. I never knew this until today, but Slayer filmed […]

  6. I just discovered your blog while searching for some songs and videos. The layout is quite wonderful and I must appreciate the effort you do in posting useful stuff here, thank you mate.

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