After nearly a decade as Cairo’s party overlord, the irrepressible Ahmed Ganzoury has just announced that his company ByGanz is set to make its first foray into Dubai. MO4 co-founder Amy Mowafi reminisces over a lost decade of dazzle…
Just under a decade ago, Ahmed Ganzoury seemingly invented - or perhaps the word is imported - the sort of exclusive hedonistic event fuelled by the dazzling debauchery young and elite third world-ers assume their Western counterparts to be daily partaking in. Ganz asked us to fuck him because he was famous (well fuck ourselves actually) and my god we all willingly obliged. And paid for the privilege just happy to have been asked.
I’d been in Cairo for about a year when he first asked me (I can’t quite remember how I met him, but I seem to remember a dance class in Zamalek being involved) to write a sponsorship profile for an events company he’d decided to set up called Buzzz (with three zs, he stressed).
I did it. I got paid for it. He got the sponsorships. I never even got invited to his first event. But then who the hell was I right? Fresh off the boat from London, I was yet to be welcomed into the fold of fabulousness that defined (and eventually defiled) Cairo’s ‘cool’ cognoscenti.
Ironically, as my satirical writings about Cairo’s social set got more exposure, so my calendar filled up with more of these ‘exclusive’ events, even from the overlord himself Ganzoury.
One of my most poignant memories from those seemingly endless days of parties, and pretty people, was a ByGanz (he eventually decided that perhaps Buzzz wasn’t the best name) New Year’s party in El Gouna. Hundreds queued in the cold, clad in their barely-there glad rags, having been amongst the privileged to be invited to pay upwards of 2000LE for a ticket. The shiny piece of paper promised an incredible surprise guest and rumors were rife that said surprise would be none other than Paris Hilton (she was in her prime, still high off her sex tape, and still living The Simple Life). Just before midnight (or maybe it was just after, my memory, is understandably a little hazy) Ganzoury gets on the stage, and nonchalant as can be, announces, “The Big Surprise is… there is NO surprise.” There was a fleeting moment of silence, and then a huge roar and round of applause and everyone got on with the important business of getting smashed while having an exclusively great time. I distinctly remember thinking, “My God, how did he just get away with that? What is this world and who the fuck are these people?” But then I saw Ghada Sawiris (wife of billionaire mogul Naguib Sawiris) in a tiny little backless top with golden tassels dancing on a table (clearly this was before the days of CairoZoom.com) and I thought to myself, “I fucking love this world.” And my insides glowed with the literary possibilities this crazy, dichotomous, out-of-context bubble of beautiful people could offer up. And I hoped it could last forever and that I would continue be a part of it, both as observer and participator, wanting to write wickedly scathing things about it but secretly enamored by it.
It was a world of multi-million dollar weddings featuring international superstars (well mostly just Akon, but there was definitely an Enrique Iglesias in there as well), of bright yellow Lamborghini Murcielagos (well at least two of them), almost weekly club / bar openings, art galleries curated by mogul millionaire housewives and furniture stores featuring 60,000 euro sofas sold out on an opening night, organized by, well of course, Ganzoury. Overpriced fashion boutiques and ‘concept stores’ across the city bustled with women snapping up dresses in the tens of thousands of dollars without batting an eyelash. It is was a world that exists in the upper echelons of most societies, however comfortable or desperate the masses. In Egypt, it all came crashing down in the span of 18 days. It is a world that really, no longer exists. The few high-end retail spots that remain open sit mostly silently, clutching on in the hopes of some brighter future where beauty is once again a valuable commodity. Or at least, where beauty has a reason to get dressed and go somewhere. The fast cars have all but disappeared off the roads; the ‘fabulous’ people have packed up and gone to pastures proverbially greener.
And in the vacuum that has been created, a new type of social set or ‘party set’ has emerged. One that is darker and more knowing. One that is younger (so much younger) and less concerned with superficialities. One that is more self-aware, ironic and, from what I gather, fuelled by cheap and cheerful drugs. They are segmented by musical genres and allegiances to the plethora of promoters and ‘nights’ that have popped up. There is no longer just one, but now many party pied pipers – Nacelle, Electrum, Back to Basics and all sorts of things that I no longer understand. There are student DJ competitions and international DJs who play something called khabt – the soundtrack to which people get makhboot. There are, from what I gather, more pills than ever floated around before. A sort of tsunami of pills that have washed in from some secret source in the wake of the revolution. And almost no one dresses up, at least not in the way we were once obliged to. Because who is there to even dress up for anymore? The strung out guy in the trainers, or the organisers who can barely be assed to mask the fact that you’re dancing in a floating tourist trap – well at least what was once a tourist trap back when we had tourists.
Amidst this Ganz – when he’s not making actual money from huge corporate events or (in the biggest twist of fate of all) mammoth international children’s theatre productions - continues to try to throw the sort of parties where one is obliged to be beautiful and maybe even wear red-soled heels. Of course, it is a thing easier said and done, and often when we meet up he will ask, “Who are these people?” And I will say I don’t know Ganz, but this is how things are now. Of course, I really don’t know what I’m talking about as the last time I went to a proper party was before I was forced to simultaneously take care of a business and a tiny human, which not only leaves little room for a life, but has also resulted in me no longer being able to fit in any of the outfits that a Ganz party demands.
Nearly ten years after I first wrote him a two-page sponsorship proposal for his one-man operation, my company is now responsible for his company’s digital media and marketing (although that doesn’t stop him from occasionally asking me to draft up an official release for him!). Gahada Sawiris no longer dances on tables. And we have just been asked to password protect all the photos of his events on CairoZoom.com after a certain tabloid published a scathing expose of the people who turned out to one of his recent events in the North Coast. Ironically, it was one of the few occasions when some of the old-school set - in town for the summer - put on their those glad rags and partied like it was 2009. And they got bit in the ass for it. Sigh.
All of which brings me to the other night when my team and I sat down with Ganz for one of our monthly meetings. After he had sketched out his plans for the coming party season in Cairo, he made an announcement. He would be making his first foray into the Dubai market. And I for one am thrilled for him. Because his brand of extravaGANZ (sorry I couldn’t help myself) and joie de vivre, his couldn’t care less about a stodgy society’s judgments coupled with his exceptional entrepreneurial spirit and excruciating attention to detail deserves a market that will appreciate, not attack, not roll its eyes, not ever wear trainers. A market that is still possessed of the spirit to put on a fabulous outfit, pop open a bottle (or two) of Champagne and party like there ain’t no Ikhwan. Every party generation deserves the pure and unadulterated glamour that Ganz - when he’s at his best and freest, unshackled by a society that is miserably mired in politicking - is so damn good at. Dubai, I envy you. You have no idea what’s about to hit you….
Stay tuned to ByGanz's adventures in Dubai here https://www.facebook.com/byganzdubai