Another practical example of Sharia Law: Hyatt Hotel in El Cairo
Duke’s pub in downtown Cairo is supposed to provide a familiar slice of English comfort amid the noise and pollution of the Arab world’s biggest city. There are soft green leather furnishings and a beautifully polished oak bar, but the most essential ingredient – alcohol – is conspicuous by its absence.
Amir, the pub’s grey-haired bartender, stared disconsolately at a display of fruit syrups behind the counter. “What’s an English pub without beer?” he sighed.
Duke’s has been dry since May, when staff at the Grand Hyatt hotel complex, which houses the pub, were ordered to empty every bottle of booze on the premises into the Nile. Cases of the finest cognac and champagne in the region were among the casualties, with local press reports suggesting up to $1m (£500,000) worth of alcohol was washed away.
The man behind the move is the hotel’s owner, Saudi sheikh Abdel Aziz Ibrahim, who has decided to make all of his business interests alcohol-free. Now, the sheikh is locked in a three-way tussle with the Global Hyatt Corporation and the Egyptian tourist authorities, a skirmish that reveals much about the religious and cultural dilemmas facing modern Egypt.
(…) Many forms of entertainment, from film studios to belly-dancers, have been snapped up by petrodollars and although the Saudi investment provides a much-needed injection of cash into the ailing Egyptian economy, critics fear that the changing cultural landscape – dancers are now covering up and films are avoiding scenes of hugging or kissing – is being used as a vehicle to spread the strict form of Wahhabi Islam prevalent in the Gulf.
Egypt has traditionally been characterised by a more moderate brand of Sunni Islam that has allowed institutions such as hotel bars to flourish in Cairo. Yet commentators say the ongoing crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest Islamic political movement that is formally banned from parliament, has left society susceptible to Wahhabism’s assault on “prurient” cultural pastimes.
Saudi money again…