This week, David Blanks goes gallery hopping, boat riding and competition winning with his trusty friend, Omar Khayyam...
Cynicism. It’s the fall back position. Most people I know are like this. Jaded, fucked off from politics, society, and culture; snarky, impertinent, ill-willed, and belligerent—and here I’m talking about my friends. I love them, naturally, but damn ...
Yet, last Saturday, this little miracle happened. These normally cynical souls were happy, smiling even, in the daylight. It was the Omar Khayyam Culture Tour and it worked its magic. Many of the guests had never seen daylight before, fewer still had ever been truly happy; so it was a revelation, as much to the amazed citizenry of Zamalek as it was to the increasingly merry band itself.
Media Republic was largely responsible for this, meaning Waseem Tanahi, who led us upon our cultural quest like the Pied Piper in shorts. If it had not been for him, most of us would not have made it out the door of L’Aubergine at all, and even if we had, we most certainly would have gotten lost along the way. Yasmine Boshra, Senior Brand Manager of Gianaclis Wines, was largely responsible for that, and we thank her heartily.
What is a cultural tour? Well, the back story is this: Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) was a Persian astronomer and mathematician who, in his spare time, which he seemed to have a lot of, liked to rap about wine. He had a couple of pretty big hits. In fact the Rubaiyat was number one on the Iranian charts for about 751 years, which is when a Greek entrepreneur in Egypt, Nestor Gianaclis, first heard it, and decided to name a wine after it.
Since then Omar Khayyam wine has become part of Egypt’s cultural heritage, and Waseem and Yasmine figured that if we were going to drink their wine, we damned well better learn something along the way; so after getting us in the mood and making us all pliant and docile, they led us merry pranksters on a gallery hop, first to the Zamalek Arts Gallery, where we experienced Rebab Nemr’s cubist “ink paintings” of Alexandria’s fishing community; and then to Gallery Misr, a post-revolutionary gallery on Ibn Zanki Street that featured the works of Fatah Afifi, Essam Maouf, Amr Kafrawi, Medhat Shafik and Ibrahim El Dessouky. So yeah, we did learn something after all, some more than others it seems, but more about that later.
When the Piper played again we followed him from Gallery Misr and weaved our way to the docks and clambered into boats, and this is where that little miracle took place. As we motored south along the Nile I couldn’t help but notice that people were weirdly happy. Friends, frenemies, enemies: they all had shit-eating grins on their faces, like little kids, or like big kids on khat. They were happy. Happy to be together, happy to be on the river, happy with the artful experience they had just had, happy to see what was to come, happy to be in another world, even for just a little while. It was very cool, one of the highlights of the day, which ended, beautifully, at the Greek Rowing Club, where we were greeted with food and music.
At this point there was also a pop quiz. We were shown a painting and, as I was the only one able to remember what we had been taught thirty minutes ago, I won a bottle of wine, which was great because my number one hippie princess was out-of-town at her bachelorette party, and I thought it would be fun to cook her some steaks and share it with her over a meal. Sadly for us this never came to pass for, as soon as the bottle materialised, it was commandeered by the Cairo 360 crowd and disappeared into the night. Typical. That’s okay guys, since Gianaclis is planning three similar events this year, I’ll have the chance to win again which, after your performance Saturday, I’m guessing won’t be too hard.
Not being used to starting in the middle of the day, the merry pranksters drifted back down the river at a decent hour, still with a smile and a song, and fully in the spirit of the great poet himself, who wrote: “Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”