To the People

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

They're On a Jihad Against Sobriety

You know things are getting weird in the Middle East when your best hope for getting a drink in Cairo is Osama Bin Laden's half brother:
CAIRO -- Diners in the revolving restaurant on the 41st floor of Cairo's Grand Hyatt once could count on a certain order to things: As surely as the torpid Nile coursed below and the Pyramids loomed in the distance, the whiskey, beer and wine flowed for hotel guests.

Then a Saudi sheik bought the Grand Hyatt, one of the city's leading luxury hotels. On visiting his new holding in April, Abdel Aziz Ibrahim declared the hotel dry and ordered managers to destroy its alcohol. Hotel workers poured out the bottles into drains running into the Nile, according to news reports at the time.

Ibrahim's imposition of prohibition reflects the disdain that some Muslims maintain for what they see as the libertine ways of Cairo. His action has sparked a five-star tussle with the Hyatt chain, which wants to restore liquor to the hotel, and has revived a debate over tolerance in Egypt.

Amid the wrangling, the Hyatt's thirsty have found refuge a few steps away in a dark bar that is also under Saudi ownership. Hassan bin Laden, half brother of Osama, is a prominent shareholder of the Hard Rock Cafe in the Grand Hyatt complex.

Vatche Yacoubian, general manager of Cairo Hard Rock, said business has jumped since the hotel went dry. The bar has a liquor license and intends to keep using it, he said.
Read the whole story here.

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