Saudi sheikh bans booze at the Cairo Grand Hyatt

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images Egyptians have a love-hate relationship with the hordes of wealthy tourists who flock to Cairo and Alexandria every summer, seeking to escape the stifling heat and cultural climate of the Gulf. On the plus side, these khaleegis, as they are somewhat derogatorily called, are willing to pay top dollar for apartments and ...

593978_080716_grandhyatt5.jpg
593978_080716_grandhyatt5.jpg

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptians have a love-hate relationship with the hordes of wealthy tourists who flock to Cairo and Alexandria every summer, seeking to escape the stifling heat and cultural climate of the Gulf.

On the plus side, these khaleegis, as they are somewhat derogatorily called, are willing to pay top dollar for apartments and other goods and services (including, all too often, prostitutes). But they also bring a stricter form of Islam that sometimes clashes with Cairo's (relatively) libertine ways. As more businessmen from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries also sink their petrodollars into Egypt, they are trying to redefine the social order -- by, for instance, investing in films but demanding that directors excise any whiff of sexual activity.

CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptians have a love-hate relationship with the hordes of wealthy tourists who flock to Cairo and Alexandria every summer, seeking to escape the stifling heat and cultural climate of the Gulf.

On the plus side, these khaleegis, as they are somewhat derogatorily called, are willing to pay top dollar for apartments and other goods and services (including, all too often, prostitutes). But they also bring a stricter form of Islam that sometimes clashes with Cairo’s (relatively) libertine ways. As more businessmen from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries also sink their petrodollars into Egypt, they are trying to redefine the social order — by, for instance, investing in films but demanding that directors excise any whiff of sexual activity.

The latest example of what many in Egypt see as khaleegi meddling? A Saudi sheikh named Abdel Aziz Ibrahim bought the five-star Grand Hyatt hotel (on an island just a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy) and promptly banned the sale of alcohol. Employees reportedly had to dump bottles of liquor into the river. One Egyptian commentator complained that the ban “deprived foreign guests from finding the alcoholic beverage which they wanted, and forced it upon the Muslim fish of the Nile.”

The good news is that you can still quench your thirst at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Grand Hyatt grounds. Prominent shareholder Hassan bin Laden, the half brother of you-know-who, doesn’t seem to mind serving booze. And with its Cairo franchise rapidly losing customers, the hotel chain’s management is pressuring Ibrahim to change his mind. It may not be long before rich folks in Cairo can drink themselves silly in the revolving bar atop the hotel once again. Inshallah.

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