A bigoted tragedy at the Greek Club in Cairo.
On Wednesday, 23 May, my partner and I went out with her visiting mother for what we thought would be a pleasant evening. Instead, we had to deal with blatant anti-Egyptian discrimination during which my partner, who was trying to contain the situation, was hit by a member of staff.
We are still shocked by the way we were handled by an establishment where we have been good customers for a considerable amount of time.
We headed off to the Greek Club, where my partner and I had been only a few days earlier, to spend the warm summer evening on their terrace. A man rushed after me and stopped, totally ignoring my partner and her mother, who are European. He asked me pointedly whether I was Egyptian. After ascertaining my nationality, he asked me if I was a member, I told him I was not, at which point he told me to leave.
For those unfamiliar with the Greek Club, it is a restaurant that has for years been open to non-members, who pay for an entrance ticket on top of their regular bill. So, we found the actions of this man (who I think was some kind of bouncer), which were directed solely at me, bewildering.
I went to fetch help from the waiters with whom I've enjoyed good rapport for years, when a man calling himself their manager came up and insisted I leave. My protests failed to make him budge. I demanded to see his superior to tell him or her what I thought of this discriminatory policy and management style, but he refused.
Offended by this apparent affront, he marched angrily towards me to aid the bouncer in ejecting me from the premises. The waiters were trying to contain the problem, while the manager and his sidekick, the bouncer, did their level best to make it escalate into a crisis.
As the bouncer was trying to drag me away, my partner tried to intervene to calm the situation and all she got for her efforts was a punch in the face from the manager. This so enraged me that I struggled unsuccessfully to break loose from some five or six waiters who were all holding me back and the bouncer who was hitting me from behind.
The waiters again tried to calm the situation down by taking me downstairs and taking my partner inside to put ice on her swelling left cheek. The manager, who I found talking to my partner, instead of apologising, denied he'd struck her. But her mother, several waiters, some customers attracted by the commotion and I saw him do it. I can only say that he intentionally struck her and wasn't trying to fend her off because he punched her with a clenched fist. This is perhaps the first time my partner and I have come face-to-face with a man hitting a woman.
We decided our only recourse was to file a complaint with the police regarding the assault on my partner and to hope they could bring some justice to an incident that severely lacked it. We also decided that it was our duty to bring to public attention the disgraceful practice of barring an Egyptian, merely based on his nationality, from an establishment, especially one that had once been welcoming to all colours and creeds and one where we had once enjoyed the diversity of its bohemian, thespian and cosmopolitan customers.
Discrimination is something one would expect to encounter when overseas and dismiss it as inexcusable. For this practice to happen at home and be tolerated in the 21st Century is unforgivable. It smacks too much of an undesirable colonial past that most Egyptians and Europeans thought had long since died out.
This letter first appeared in The Cairo Times