At downtown bar, patrons toast Shafiq

Ahmed Feteha and Bassem Abo Alabass, Sunday 17 Jun 2012

Drinkers at a central Cairo establishment express support for Mubarak's ex-PM and talk of fears the Brotherhood's candidate will close their hang-out

Cap-Door has happily served customers for over 100 years. Its patrons and workers fear an Islamist president might close their favourite hangout (Photo: Al-Ahram)

As millions of Egyptians headed to polling stations on Saturday afternoon to choose their next president, the patrons of Cap d'Or were enjoying some welcome downtime with their drinks.

This rundown bar in central Cairo serves chilled Stella beer and painfully-strong firewater to mainly lower-middle and working class clientele. A steady stream of snack trays provide the punctuation to the booze, from boiled fava beans to chickpeas and hard-boiled eggs seasoned with chilli flakes.
But talking to Ahram Online, patrons and staff showed an appetite for something extra this weekend: an Ahmed Shaqif presidency.
"We don’t want religious rule in Egypt. If Morsi wins the Muslim Brotherhood will be the masters of this country," the 30-something bartender, Gomaa, told Ahram Online.
Gomaa, who's been serving drinks at this hospitable dive for 16 years, was convinced that Mubarak's ex-prime minister was the better of the two choices.
"My favourite candidate was Mohamed ElBaradie, but since he's not running I'm choosing the one who will cause the least damage," he explained.
He voiced a common concern that if the Islamists take power, they'll put the squeeze on those working in the alcohol business.
"I know they will not close down the place right away, but gradually they will raise taxes to force the bar to shut down," Gomaa said.
A ramshackle, two-room joint of creaky wooden chairs and cigarette-stained tables, Cap d'Or has been quenching thirsts for over a century.
Currently owned by an Egyptian, the bar was bought from its previous, foreign owners in the 1960s.
Gomaa, a Coptic Christian living in El-Marg, northern Cairo, says business has become harder in recent years.
"We are getting enough harassment from the government as it is," he complains.
"Last month inspectors fined us 5,000 pounds just because we didn’t have a 'licence' for playing television in the bar. The fact we are selling alcohol makes us a target for those the self-righteous."
Mahmoud, another of Cap d'Or's barmen, said he was also voting for Shafiq. He claimed almost 100 per cent of their patrons would also support the divisive former aviation minister.
"Whoever comes in here obviously wants this place to stay open," he says. "That means they will automatically vote for Shafiq."
Al-Barssi Mohamed, a 60-year old Nubian sitting at the bar drinking cheap Egyptian brandy, gave credence to the bartender's theory.
"I don't have the right to vote here in Cairo as I am from Aswan, but if I had the chance I'd definitely vote for Shafiq," he says.
Another Nubian named Mohamed, dressed in a traditional gallabiya, said his main reason for supporting Shafig was to protect freedoms to do simple things like gather in bars and watch television.
"We could be deprived of all this if the votes go to Mohamed Morsi," he said sadly.
Shaifq paid a recent visit to Nubia, which lies in the far south of Egypt, some 870 km from Cairo. 
He was warmly welcomed, says Mohamed, adding that Morsi hardly mentioned them in his campaign speeches.
The majority of Nubians were forced to give up their land some 50 years ago, when the Aswan High Dam was built and they were resettled in 46 villages.
Although Nasr Al-Nuba was specifically built as compensation for those uprooted by the dam, none of the resettled Nubian families actually own the house they live in or the land they work there – and many have received no compensation at all.
"I just need a safe home for my family and I as ours is crumbling and in danger of collapsing. I think Shafiq will guarantee this more than Morsi," he said, taking another swig of Stella.
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