Hard Luck Cafe Cairos debut Islamic coffee-shop allows no gender-mixing

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Men sit together in D. Cappucino café
Men sit together in D. Cappucino café
Women sit together in D. Cappucino café
Women sit together in D. Cappucino café
The café’s owners deny claims that they are connected in any way to the Muslim Brotherhood, and say that the gender segregation they offer is no more foreign to Egypt than separate subway train cars for women, which is offered on Cairo’s metro service.

Jihad Amin, a journalist, says that labelling D. Cappucino as an ‘Islamist’ café is unfair, and that those scrutinising it are showing a lack of tolerance.

“I don’t see it as an ‘Islamic café’, but I can say that it is a café for families. I like this idea, that just as there are coffee shops for foreigners, and coffee shops where singles can sit together, there are also some people who don’t like either, so those people have the right to find a suitable place for them to go out. It is so simple - people are living together in one community so there is no reason to accept a certain lifestyle and to reject the other, “she said.

While the café has been a draw for conservative Muslims and women who simply want to avoid being hassled or gawked at, the quiet atmosphere has also attracted businessmen wanting to hold lunchtime meetings without having their conversations drowned out by the latest music video.

Whatever the intentions of D. Cappucino’s owners, the café was certain to make opponents of the country’s ascendant Islamist parties nervous.

The domination of Egypt’s nascent political scene by Islamist parties after the fall of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago has unsettled liberals and many religious Egyptians who oppose the imposition of moral and social strictures.

The fight over Egypt’s new Islamist-backed constitution has only sharpened the divide, and street battles between liberal protesters and supporters of the Muslim brotherhood raised the spectre of Egypt’s political divide leading to uncontrollable civil strife.

But that debate is far from the mind of customers like Ahmed Zein.

“We are looking for a certain environment, which is calm, where there is separation, no smoking of cigarettes or waterpipes, and at the same time, we are looking for quality of the services as well. In D. Cappuccino Café they provide us with all of these things, and they provide me with extra privacy and a high quality product, whether food or drink. I don’t see any need to classify it - the description of ‘Café for Islamists’ is untrue, “he said.

So while Egypt’s culture wars continue with no end in sight, customers at the D. Cappucino café are just hoping to be left on the sidelines.

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