Lights, laughs and applause would always flood one of Zamalek’s most beloved and well-known cultural venues, El Sawy Culture Wheel (or El Sakkia). Since its opening in February 2003, El Sawy Culture Wheel has held numerous cultural events, from musical concerts of all sorts to puppet and comedy shows.
A venue centred around the gathering of large crowds, this gem of a place tucked away under the 15th of May bridge had to close its doors mid-March following the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Founder of El Sakkia, Mohamed Abdel Moneim El Sawy, explains that they had to shut down the venue in accordance with the situation at hand, but they never failed to keep a positive and hopeful attitude.
“We closed our doors, but kept our hands on the handles ready to open at any time once the atmosphere permits,” El Sawy tells Egyptian Streets, “no matter what precautions would need to be taken with our re-opening – in terms of number of people permitted in the venue and the like – we stayed hopeful and ready to welcome people back at any time.”
As the period of closure kept extending however, they had to find other ways to keep their presence alive. And so, as was the case with various other cultural venues, they began offering free online workshops as well as sharing videos of past concerts and opening up their library for free to help people stay occupied and get through the tough lockdown period.
“Despite the circumstances, employees were adamant about bringing in new ideas and ways for us to keep going,” says El Sawy, “for almost three months, we haven’t really had any sort of income… but regardless, we always stay hopeful and thankful knowing that things will ultimately work out, and the wheel has slowly began to turn again.”
Perhaps it is this hopeful spirit that has kept El Sakkia alive and vibrant over the past 17 years, and what will continue to keep it going for many years to come – it is what fuels the venue and what has resulted in masses of fans across Cairo and Egypt.
El Sawy is aware of the fact that any financial hits they have taken over the past three months or so will certainly take longer to redeem that it did to lose. Nevertheless, his belief in the power and importance of culture and art is enough to get that wheel turning at full speed once again.
“I truly believe in the importance of art and culture in any country around the world, and that it is among any country’s top priorities,” El Sawy stresses, “regardless of what we’re going through, it is arts and culture that gets us through it and is the key to solving any problems one may find themselves in.”
He continues to say that it is through the arts that we are able to shine light on difficult situations, and should one fail to see its importance, they will inevitably tumble and fall and must find a way to get back up again. This is precisely why El Sakkia’s founder has hope for the future through the arts.
“Hopefully we will all collectively learn from all that has happened over this period of time, as well as continue to further encourage creativity,” says El Sawy, “as for the future of our venue, we hope to begin by opening our doors at a 25 percent capacity, then eventually move on to 50 percent and eventually back to our full 100 percent – whether that be at our current venue or various other venues as well.”
Evidently, El Sawy and his team of 140 employees at El Sakkia passionately and diligently work to spread the many joys and treasures the arts have to offer everyone and they are eagerly awaiting to welcome everyone at full capacity – lights, laughs, applause and all – once again, very soon.