• Local's Guide To Egypt

9 Cultural Venues in Cairo for Music, Art, Film and Egyptian Folklore

Cairo is full to the brim with restaurants, cafes, ahwas, malls and cinemas, which is where we locals spend 95% of our going out leisure time. But there’s actually a lot more to Cairo than just food, coffee and blockbuster movies -- you just need to know the right places to look.

So if you’re in the mood to go down a more cultural route for your next night out, these nine venues might have just what you’re looking for.

1. Zawya Arthouse Cinema

Location: Downtown

Go for: independent films and other movies not aired in Egypt’s mainstream cinemas

Zawya opened its doors in 2014 in Cairo’s historic Cinema Odeon and is touted as Egypt’s first ‘arthouse cinema’.

Different than the rest of Egypt’s cinemas which are heavy on Hollywood and Sobky movies, Zawya prides itself on airing independent films, both Egyptian and international, alongside documentaries, short films and experimental work, most of which never see the light of day in Egypt’s mainstream cinemas.

Besides regular screenings, Zawya also helps promote local and Arab filmmakers through events, discussions and masterclasses.

Make sure you also check out their film festivals and ‘spotlight’ artist events (for example, they recently had a night dedicated to Youssef Chahine’s short films).

2. Room Art Space & Cafe

Location: Garden City & New Cairo

Go for: live music (jazz, tribute bands, folkloric music), karaoke, open mic nights

This cafe and performance art venue “offers professionals and aspiring artists -as well as lovers of the arts- a space to create, collaborate, perform and share ideas over freshly brewed coffee.”

Room have almost daily live events, varying from stand-up comedy to live music to film screenings in both English and Arabic.

3. Darb 1718

Location: Old Cairo (behind the Hanging Church and Amr Ibn Aas mosque)

Go for: artisanal workshops and live events

Founded in 2008, this non-profit organization is a contemporary art and culture center in the heart of Old Cairo.

Darb 1718 offers art exhibition spaces, theater, dance and concert stages, an outdoor cinema, gardens and rooftops and even an artist residency to accommodate international artists.

Artisanal workshops offered: pottery, leather wallet making, Arabic calligraphy, vintage photo album making, sketching, mosaics, film editing, soap making and much more.

4. Cairo Opera House

Location: Zamalek

Go for: live performances

Undoubtedly the most famous on the list, the Cairo Opera House has been the bastion of cultural events in the capital for decades now.

It has several different halls and theatres for all sorts of performances, and in any given month you’ll find a packed schedule: choir, ballet, opera, flamenco, ensemble groups, folkloric music, orchestra, Egyptian modern dance, instrumental soloists, poetry and much more.

Check their website for their full schedule.

5. Townhouse Gallery

Location: Downtown

Go for: art exhibitions and Rawabet Theatre

Probably the most popular gallery and visual art space in Cairo, Townhouse is a non-profit organization that strives (and succeeds) to be more than just a standard gallery.

Besides hosting visual art, they also have Townhouse Library and Rawabet Theatre, a space for independent performing artists of all disciplines, as well as international residencies for artists, writers and filmmakers.

Most recently Townhouse also opened SAWA Shop, where you can buy Egyptian handicrafts and old books, magazines and art publications.

6. El Sawy Culture Wheel (El Sakia)

Location: Zamalek

Go for: live performances & puppet theatre

A Zamalek staple for over 15 years, this performing arts space right on the Nile has been the launching pad for some of Egypt’s favorite contemporary bands when they were first starting out.

Their monthly calendar is almost always full with musical performances, poetry, theatre, seminars and their famous puppet theatre.

7. Makan (Egyptian Center for Culture & Arts)

Location: Garden City

Go for: Traditional and folkloric Egyptian music

Makan’s main mission is to preserve the traditional Egyptian folk music that has been marginalized over the years due to the predominance of commercialized international music and its influence on contemporary Egyptian artists.

Makan is now one of the few spaces in Egypt where you can attend a ‘Zar’; a folkloric performance with rhythmic dance and drumming, which is in essence a complex healing ritual led by women, but which has been shunned by mainstream Egyptian culture for supposedly being an exorcism ritual. It’s at the risk of dying out completely, which is what makes having a place like Makan so important.

They also have Sufi music, ‘mawawil’ (rural songs from the Nile Delta), Nubian and Sudanese heritage music and a medley of other talented Egyptian performers.

8. Wekalet el Ghouri

Location: Old Cairo

Go for: the tanoura show

Every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday Wekalet el Ghouri Art Centre is host to the famous whirling dervish show -- also known as the tanoura show, or the Sufi dancing show.

A great option for tourists (and locals!) to really get immersed in the Old Cairo feel (Wekalet el Ghouri is in the Khan el Khalili and Moez street area).

The show is about two hours long, and high energy from start to finish. The show starts at 7 pm, and tickets are first come, first served (starting 6 pm). There’s usually a crowd so make sure you get there early.

9. Bardo Clubhouse

Location: Maadi

Go for: laidback events, workshops & classes, open mic nights

Bardo Clubhouse in Maadi is a revamped 1940s villa, offering classes at all levels in movement, art, design and multimedia. They also have different performances and night bazaars. Once you pay the entrance ticket, you and your friends can roam the villa freely and either join a class, watch a show at night or just enjoy the villa or gardens for either work or leisure without being bothered by waiters or ‘minimum charges’.

You might also like: 9 Best Rooftop Bars in Cairo

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Hi and thanks for visiting! We're a group of Egyptian locals who love to share our insider info with travelers when it comes to all things Egypt.

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