For the Record: My Cairo Soundtrack

At least once a year, I try to take a trek down to Cairo to see my brother, eat some great food, eat some more great food and visit my old stomping grounds. I always end up romanticizing the whole trip beforehand, remembering the wonderful years I spent there, and unfailingly, I get emotional as soon as I step out of the airport and breathe in that first breath of fresh(ish) air.

Inevitably, I get clobbered and end up complaining and yelling expletives at strangers, but that’s what every true Cairene lives for. And, as with everything else, there are certain songs that I associate with the city, ones that fill me with longing and others that fill me with dread.

Traditionally and particularly recently, most songs about Cairo have been mushy optimistic songs that ignore the fact that even if on the one hand it’s an exciting, beautiful and vibrant city, the other hand is still there — that it’s crowded, dangerous, hypocritical and frustrating… but we love it anyway.

So I’ve chosen instead to highlight some songs that remind me of Cairo, even if they were written about other great cities. My favorite of the bunch is undoubtedly Snow Patrol’s “Take Back the City” which epitomizes the overall feeling I get when I’m back: in love, victimized and possessive.




Snow Patrol: “Take Back the City”


“It’s a mess. It’s a start. It’s a flawed work of art.”




Adele: “Hometown Glory”


“Shows that we ain’t gonna stand shit, shows that we are united, shows that we ain’t gonna take it.”




CeeLo Green: “Bright Lights, Bigger City”


“So I’ll never have to wonder if I’ll have someone to share all of it with.”




Elbow: “Station Approach”


“I need to be in the town where they know what I’m like and don’t mind.”




The Cure: “Fire In Cairo”


“Slowly fading blue, the eastern hollows… catch the dying sun, night-time follows.”




Talking Heads: “Cities”


“Do I smell? I smell home cooking. It’s only the river, it’s only the river.”




LCD Soundsystem: “New York I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”


“Maybe mother told you true, and they’ll always be something there for you, and you’ll never be alone.”




Arctic Monkeys: “When the Sun Goes Down”


“They said it changes when the sun goes down, over the river, going out to town.”




Stevie Wonder: “Living for the City”


“I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow, and that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow. This place is cruel; where could be much colder? If we don’t change, the world will soon be over”




Bon Jovi: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”


“Been all around the world and as a matter of fact there’s only one place left I want to go.”




WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss For the Record: The Best Moments of the 58th Grammys.