Port Said: Still a City of Sin & Vice?
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Port Said is a safe, respectful, and perfectly pleasant place for anyone looking for a short excursion; however, this wasn't always the case. Port Said used to be infamous throughout the world.
Take Major C.S. Jarvis, a British colonial governor of Sinai, who wrote in 1937 that, "In 1860 it did not exist, but by 1890 it had achieved the distinction of being called the wickedest town in the East, and vice and evil were rampant in the streets. It was always used by writers of sensational novels as the setting for Oriental romances, and it was at Port Said that the hero became hopelessly entangled with a female vampire, the heroine was ravished by an oily Sheikh or Bey in flowing robes, and even the villain met his match in depravity and bestiality."
(thanks to Michael Haag's Egypt guide for bringing this quote to my attention)
Similarly, In 1873, a visitor likened Port Said to the Wild West, and spoke of transitting sailors, eager for debauchery, descending on the city for its bars and cafes "filled with roulette tables banned elsewhere in Egypt". This frightened traveller also spoke of how the danger posed by potential robberies "compelled many men to carry revolvers after nightfall".
However, Port Said maintained such a reputation until 1947, when the city began to change substantially. As colonial troops and authority began to leave Port Said, so too did the city's identity as a place of sin and vice.
While Port Said was well known for its nightlife and baladi bar scene for many decades after, this seems to have finally come to an end. After hearing stories of a not-to-miss bar called Cecil and a lively bar under the Hotel De La Poste, I was surprised to find they no longer exist. After turning up at the Hotel De La Poste, I was told the cafe no longer served alcohol and after looking for Cecil, following a GPS pin, I came to the location and assumed that I must've taken a wrong turn on the way until I realised that the demolished building to my left was indeed the famous Cecil.
After endless inquiries and research, everyone I spoke to was pretty confident that the last of Port Said's baladi bars have disappeared. The only recommendations I did get were places that have already closed. The only places serving, to the best of my knowledge, is a rather soulless mock-pub bar at the Resta Port Said hotel and a small liquor shop to the side of Hotel De La Poste.
The reasons for this, I'm sure are many. Some particular to Port Said and others representative of changes across the nation. Port Said has changed, and while it may now lack a bar scene, it has plenty of other great things to do to fill your evenings, from walks along the corniche boardwalk eating great seafood to the great cafes and restaurants that are still very much abundant in this city.