Om Kolthoum Café: a tribute to the diva

Ahmed Maged
5 Min Read

CAIRO: With numerous coffee shops carrying the name of late Arab diva Om Kulthoum, it’s difficult to think of any of these venues as anything special.

But one coffee shop in Tawfikia stands out from the rest. The place can practically be called a second museum dedicated to Om Kulthoum. The diva herself used to go there to meet with famous musicians and journalists of the time.

The coffee shop first opened its doors in the 1940s as just another traditional Egyptian café. It made history as the “Star of the Orient began to frequent it between 1948 and 1957, meeting with celebrities like journalists Ali and Mostafa Amin, Fikri Abaza, composer Riyad El Sonbati and peot Ahmed Rami among others.

“This is the corner where Om Kulthoum used to sit and talk to Ali and Mostafa Amin, read one of many plaques around the café, which give us insight into her life. Rarely seen photos are framed and adorn the walls.

The place is full of tourists, expatriates and Egyptians alike, all sitting around, sipping their tea or smoking shisha. Many first-time customers stroll around the café to look at the different memorabilia. Two huge busts of the diva are placed at the door.

Other busts are placed inside next to paintings of composers Riyad El Sonbati, Mohamed El Asabgi, Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Sayed Mekkawy.

In another corner there is a large portrait of poet Ahmed Rami whose love for Om Kulthoum inspired the lyrics of many songs, which he proudly dedicated to her.

A pair of her sunglasses and three of her scarves are kept safely in glass display boxes. It is said they were given to the café owner by the diva’s husband. Her profile is printed on the sugar packets as well as some of the old-fashioned glass shisha pipes.

“The owner of the café, Safwat Luka Bibawy, was a big fan of the diva and his fondness for her inspired him to create this café. I am not familiar with its beginnings, but a café that has been visited by these artists surely has many stories to tell, said Hanna Farag, the manager of Om Kulthoum coffee shop.

Having run the place for the last 12 years, Farag has a lot of stories of her own.

“A visitor from the Gulf came thinking she was buried here. We tried to convince him that she wasn’t and showed him that a storage room for the shisha pipes was all that lay underneath, but he wasn’t convinced, and he proceeded to touch and kiss the tiles, he recounted.

Farag said an Egyptian living in the United States came to Egypt just to visit the café after hearing about it on a satellite TV channel.

Walking by, all you hear are Om Kulthoum’s songs resonating from within. If you sit down and order a drink, you can request to hear any of her songs.

The coffee shop has one branch in Arcadia Mall and another one set to open soon at CityStars. However, none can compete with the history of the original.

“People come to us only because they love Om Kulthoum . We always have good business but because our reputation has spread far and wide due to our association with the diva, I am thinking of promoting the place by organizing events to be staged the first Thursday of every month at the café, said Farag.

She’s calling on people who have rare recordings, shots, stories or any other material relating to the diva to contact him.

“We want to stand up to our reputation in terms of content and as a cultural resource . that the diva continues to nourish in spite of her absence, said Farag.

For those who have related material and are interested in staging events at the café, please call (02) 2575 1111

Share This Article
Leave a comment