By Sarah Loat
Porto Cairo has opened its doors, and in the past few weeks, enormous billboards around town have drawn attention to this fact and the concert by internationally renowned singer Cheb Khaled. On 8 May, the man who made Rai famous was slated to perform, and in anticipation of a night of great music, I made my way to Porto Cairo for the first time. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it will also be the last.
We paid EGP 300 for a ticket to what we thought would be a concert. My suspicions about the quality of the organisation were aroused immediately when I saw the spelling and grammatical errors on the billboards and tickets, but I was willing to give the organisers the benefit of the doubt.
While the tickets had a perforated edge so concert goers would be able to keep part of them as souvenirs, the complete ticket was rudely taken at the gate. Not the best way to start the evening. When we arrived inside the event, it became clear the stage was ridiculously far away from the where the audience was, and we appeared to have invaded a cheap dinner party. Row after row of junk food restaurants filled the audience area and we were ushered to our seats.
We had arrived ready to enjoy an evening of music, but the organisers had something else in mind. As soon as we sat down, we were asked to pay a minimum of EGP 200 each, even though we had already paid EGP 300 for the concert. Apparently, we were expected to eat burgers and fries and smoke shisha while Cheb Khaled performed, a sign of disrespect to both the artists and the audience, and an underhanded way to charge the audience nearly double the price of the ticket without informing them beforehand.
Seated at Studio Masr, my chair was directly next to a pole. As the pyrotechnics display began, fireworks were ignited directly above our heads, with fallout dropping down on us. Whatever propellant or fuel that was in the flame throwers that were part of the pyrotechnics display (also above my head, approximately a metre away), began to drip and splash my skin, hair and clothes and the heat was immense. If this was not enough to be worried about, I noticed the flame thrower was attached to the pole by Sellotape.
Needless to say, we moved because of this stunning lack of care for the safety of ticket holders. However, everywhere we stood we were ushered away by either by restaurant staff or the roaming security patrols, making it impossible to see the concert adequately. I did see a lot of waiters’ backs and heard people calling for ketchup, yet that was not worth the money I spent on the ticket.
The audience were not the only ones suffering from the embarrassment that was the organisation of the concert. Cheb Khaled performed largely while standing in the dark, but in the parts I could see, at least the background, sky and sponsor signs were well lit.
At one point, the singer stopped his performance mid song. Seemingly, somebody had approached the stage. While the security did a great job of preventing paying guests from actually seeing the concert, they apparently failed miserably in keeping the performer secure.
Cheb Khaled proved to be a consummate professional; he continued the concert despite the absurd seating arrangement, people wolfing down food and the appalling sound quality. To add insult to injury, the large screens on the side of the stage, the only opportunity to see what was going on for many in the audience, failed to project the show. Instead, we enjoyed the desktop of someone’s computer for the duration of the concert.
In short, the evening was an unbelievable disaster from start to finish. The event put the safety of customers at risk while charging them extra money on site on top of the ticket price. It failed to accommodate an internationally renowned artist with the basic tools to perform to his standards. And most of all the organisers showed a blatant disrespect to both Cheb Khaled and the audience.