|photo: Youssef Rakha
Informed psychiatric opinion would have it that the extrovert-introvert conundrum is really all about acousticophobia. In a public setting, place the subject at progressively closer distances to blaring speakers and observe signs of latent or externalised fear of noise. The more restive the response, the more introverted your case, and the more alarming should be the diagnosis.
Now I had actually taken the trouble to book a table, inadvertently making it clear to the maitre de Pool at the swish swish swish Four Seasons Hotel that I was interested in the belly dancing performance. We were consequently placed at the closest possible distance to the speakers, with the result that my obviously diseased psyche got the better of me, almost.
I say “almost” because the adrenaline, coloured by the flowing, chic, marbly, gold studded hotel interior and the mercifully non-Muzak music wafting through the corridors, then momentarily exacerbated by the somewhat over-emphatic attentiveness of the staff, now gradually took the form of mild, drawn out undulations that seemed to reverberate with the muted rippling manoeuvres of the man-made, bright lilac body of water which, flanked by similarly billowing arches against the artificial magnificence of one side of the building, dominated the prospect.
I initially envied those who had found a niche inside the segmented Bedouin-style tent which extended along one side of the pool as far as the eye could see. But the regular pool seating, besides affording a better view of the promised performance, seemed particularly comfortable to me. A candle burned inside a minimalist, opaque holder and the majestic full moon could only rarefy the romance as the staff, impeccably decked out in lilac beach shirts, hovered endlessly.
And the volume wasn’t exceptionally high to begin with, truth be told. So even a case as chronic as I could settle into reasonably relaxed conversation as my companion and I nibbled on an exquisite selection of breads and sipped mineral water. It has to be said at this point that the menu, rich as it is in the mezzah department, is really largely restricted to regular pool fare, with a limited selection of salads, burgers and grills, and even fewer Italian and French wines to choose from.
The food arrived minutes before the greatest adrenaline surge of the evening, when the volume was abruptly pumped up to presage the arrival of Nesma — a level of amplification that was to persist for as long as she kept on performing. So primordial an image of brazenly undulating flesh will inevitably upstage grilled calamari, however elaborately salted and seasoned. I tried to lose myself in the just-right portion of grouper, which, along with the absorbingly aromatic “Oriental rice”, dominated my oblong plate, but the movements kept insinuating an interminably awaited relief, the beat usurping every last sign of the patriarchal paradigm in my body.
All in all the food turned out to be almost as satisfactory as the belly dancer, notwithstanding the subject’s divided self. My companion’s rather more plentiful platter of grilled meat proved excellent, and the succulent brownies with vanilla ice cream, their chocolaty precision punctuated by shredded hazelnuts, were worth every last piaster of the bill.
Nesma would insist on coming dangerously close to my seat, however, and my income being what it is, I doubt if I will be able to keep my promise to the friendliest of the waiters, who followed us all the way to the exit, murmuring, repeatedly, “Hope to see you again soon.”
The Pool Bar and Grill, 4th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel at the Cairo First Residence, 35 Giza Road, tel. 02 573 1212, open daily 11am-6pm and 7pm-12.30pm, with live music every day and belly dancing performance from 9pm-10pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Dinner for two, sans alcohol, came to LE408, a not unexpected if still rather excessive plight.