El Horreya: A Rare Bar in Cairo
El Horreya is one of Cairo’s few bars, and it’s located about a half mile from the Tahrir Square and the Cairo Museum. At this his bar, covered in revolutionary graffiti, alcohol is served in one room and tea in another. In both sections, you can see men and women sitting together; only in the tea side, however, will there be women in hijab, traditional Muslim attire. In the bar section, a fully garbed Muslim woman would be too shocking. And the bar was apparently perceived as offensive enough as it is. The bar section had plywood board sheets inelegantly nailed up over the windows. These barriers were not set up in the tea section of the building, which had clear windows open to the street. In the bar section, however, the wooden barriers to the outside world were put there, my friend and Islamic scholar John Martin explained to me, less to provide privacy to the drinkers and more to provide protection to pedestrians walking by. In Islam, according to Martin (and this may be open to interpretation), temptation comes not from within the individual but from forces outside the individual. Covering the windows is an attempt to shield outsiders from what might be perceived as the heinous activity (drinking) that was taking place within, and so shield them from temptation that might compromise their spiritual integrity.
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