In these pages you will hopefully find interesting tips on how to take advantage of Cairo's many cultural opportunities, with particular attention to live events. Cairo Live Events Guide does not pretend to be exhaustive but will try to cover main events open to the public.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011


"The three cities of the Canal (Port Said, Ismailiyya and Suez) share similar traditions of music and song, though each has its special features.
Three tributaries combined to bring these arts to Ismailiyya, which is located half-way along the Canal. The first of these was the Sudanese, who have lived in the oldest quarters of the city -the "Slave Stockades" ('arayshiyyit il-'abid) -since it was built in the last third of the nineteenth century. The second was the interaction of local musicians with others from Port Said or Suez, as well as with the ships passing through the Canal, which, at the end of the 1930's, brought the instrument known as the simsimiyya (a type of lyre). And the third was the influence of the other shores of Lake Manzalla, at one end of which Isma'iliyya lies, and especially that of the fishermen families living in 'Izbit el-Bahtini, who brought with them fishing songs and the songs of the damma ("street gathering"- a genre with its roots in Sufi music).
On the streets of the city, these tributaries mingled to produce what may be called "the popular art of Ismailiyya," which flourished from the beginning of the 1950's up to the war of June 1967.
After the war, the inhabitants of the city were forced to migrate to areas further inside Egypt, far from the battle line. In their diaspora, in the cities and villages and displacement camps, the people of Ismailiyya survived, and shared their singing with the displaced people from Port Said and Suez, to the accompaniment of the simsimiyya, which, with its songs expressive of their common concerns, played an important role in creating a bond among them.

With the end of the war and the return of the displaced to their cities, things were different, in Ismailiyya as in the rest of Egypt. When the "open door" economic policy was adopted, social values changed and, at the beginning of the 1970's, the trend towards commercialism started to take over the old artistic tradition. Competition for the rich pickings of the wedding market intensified, leading to the withdrawal from this field of the authentic musicians, as some died and others retired.
Only one, the musician Muhammad El-Waziri, refused to retire into obscurity and continued to cherish his own simsimiyya, though he had no idea what to do with it on his own. Things changed when El-Waziri met Zakaria Ibrahim, and embarked on a relationship with the Tanbura troupe experiment in Port Said, which attempted to collect the music and songs of Port Said by bringing together the old musicians, who, like their fellows in Ismailiyya, had gone into retirement.

The legend "Muhammad El-Waziery", the king of simsimiyya of the Canal zone, passed away in 2008 at the age of 73, cuddling the simsimiyya instrument and leaving the heritage of Ismailia city in the hand of his troupe which he was the leader of, (Souhgbagya group), who subsequently changed its name to "El Waziery group" in recognition of his history and of the accomplishment of saving the heritage of Ismailia city.
Now there was hope that what had happened in Port Said might happen in Ismailiyya, as, together, we were able in the same year to begin the foundation of the El Waziery Group, by bringing together the old popular musicians of Ismailiyya to prevent the loss of this heritage.
To date the El Waziri Group have performed a number of times, in Ismailiyya itself and in Port Said, Suez and Cairo, gaining new friends all the time."

(This biography has been prepared by El Mastaba. For more information contact them at 010 3171 762 or write to )

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