Listen to the Locals: Where to Find Cairo’s Favorite Bands and Live PerformancesBy Soha Elsirgany
Music is the living pulse of a city. In Cairo, the constant rhythm of its streets is but a teaser for the vibrant music scene in its cafés, clubs and concert halls.
Aside from music festivals and pop-up concerts, plenty of venues make sure the music runs all year long across the city.
From cozy acoustic evenings to wild EDM nights, you’re sure to find something to jam to no matter what mood you’re in. Here are the best places to seek out Cairo’s music.
Room Art Space & Café
Tucked in the twisty streets of the Garden City area amid art nouveau architecture, Room Art Space is a cozy neighborhood café showcasing weekly performances.
Blue walls and wooden chairs frame the stage, and you’ll see and hear local bands like Janan, Balqeis and Dokkan.
Order snacks, a light sandwich or your fix of caffeine as you settle into Room’s laid-back atmosphere. And don’t miss their Monday karaoke night if you’re inspired to sing your heart out.
Immerse yourself in the big sounds pumping out from the relatively small space of Zigzag in the heart of downtown Cairo.
The venue regularly hosts an eclectic range of electro beats, slick DJ sets and Cairo’s grooviest bands, all made better by the bar’s famous mojitos.
When the party’s over in the wee hours, enjoy the empty streets of downtown Cairo while they last.
Makan (Egyptian Center for Culture & Arts)
For those who appreciate folklore, Makan is a rare gem and one of the few places with its heart set on keeping music heritage alive in a modern world. The space’s homey rugs and warm lighting transport you to an era way before pop and rock.
You’ll find music from Upper Egypt, desert tribes and rural areas. Makan hosts nontraditional Arabic bands, as well, but Mazaher Band’s zar music and Gamalat Shiha’s trance-inducing mawawil are constants in a changing world.
Cairo Jazz Club
There’s so much more than jazz at the Cairo Jazz Club and its recently opened sister site Cairo Jazz Club 610, both of which offer an eclectic melting pot of different genres, both local and international.
This is the perfect spot for dancing the night away while devouring a hearty meal or sipping your cocktail among the locals. This best-known club in town has hosted local and international bands for more than 15 years, often embracing young bands and catapulting them to fame.
Aside from the fresh new talents and the local favorites like Sharmoofers, Cairokee and Wust El-Balad, this is also where many international acts perform on their Cairo visits.
The best part about El-Sawy Culturewheel is that the same stages welcome up-and-coming musicians as well as famous bands.
Located under the bridge in the artsy Zamalek neighborhood, El-Sawy has remained a go-to for music lovers over the years. It’s a buzzing hive of art and music, with something happening every day in all its different halls. Catch an exciting “battle of the bands” event on one night and a puppet show featuring Om Kalthoum on the next.
Besides, it’s nice to know you’re right next to the Nile when you’re swaying to the tunes in River Hall.
Darb 1718 isn’t the place you’d ever stumble into by coincidence, but you’ll be glad to have its tricky address.
Quietly situated behind Old Cairo, this place feels like an oasis; its earthy, sand-colored buildings house pottery workshops and other creative initiatives.
Open-air concerts run year-round here, including a series of intimate concerts on the roof. During larger concerts, listeners get to kick back into plush bean bags and cushions on a ground-floor island of grass, looking up at a stage on the second floor balcony.
The space also hosts art exhibitions, workshops and outdoor film screenings.
El-Genaina Theatre is a double win of music and mood. The open-air Roman theater in Al-Azhar Park hosts the best local and visiting bands, with a knack for fusion.
Catch the likes of Dina El-Wedidi, Eskenderella Band or a plethora of fusion bands and frequent double-bill concerts.
Combine a show with a stroll around Azhar Park during sunset, or post-concert, enjoy the gardens and view of Cairo’s Saladin Citadel.