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Raphael Cormack: Cairo in the Roaring 20s

at 92nd Street Y - Online

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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 18 and older
Average Class Size: 12
Teacher: Raphael Cormack

Flexible Reschedule Policy: This provider has flexible, free rescheduling for any-in person workshop. Please see the cancellation policy for more details

What you'll learn in this history lesson:

The 1920s in Cairo were a time of revolution—political, social, and cultural. Egypt had recently won independence from British rule (officially at least if not always in practice), women were becoming more prominent in public life, and Cairo was one of the most multicultural cities in the world where Muslims, Christians, and Jews all rubbed shoulders in cafés, bars, and theatres.

Based on research from his new book, Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ‘20s, historian Raphael Cormack uses the stories of the singers, actresses, and dancers of this period to tell a different kind of Middle Eastern history. Tour the smoky cabarets, raucous music halls and crowded theatres of Cairo’s nightlife district where legendary Oum Kalthoum got her first break and where a former nightclub singer, Mounira al-Mahdiyya, performed the first Arabic opera. This is the story of the vibrant culture of the 20th century Arab world; and a Middle East not defined by war or violence but by creativity.

April 1: Beginnings

Explore how Cairo's modern entertainment industry developed over the late 19th century and early 20th century with the rise of theatres, nightclubs, and 78-rpm records and transforms with the carnivalesque 1919 revolution which ignited the social change and cultural boom of the 1920s.

April 8: The Golden Age

Look at the political, social, and cultural movements being born (including the feminist movement) as well as the increasingly diverse makeup of the city's population that pave the way for this period of creativity in music, dance, and theater, as well as its biggest stars, some of which are still celebrated worldwide today.

April 15: Global Arab Celebrities

How were modern celebrities created? Dive into period magazines, records, films, and autobiographies and learn how Egyptian and Arab performers became international superstars, touring the world in the 1920s and 1930s, from Baghdad to New York.

April 22: Endings

Chart the various forces that led to the decline of Cairo’s interwar nightlife—from the rise of the film industry worldwide to the forces who sought to censor it culminating in the Cairo Fire of 1952 which destroyed many of the bars and cabarets that had fueled the entertainment world. Discover why the incredible history of Egyptian nightlife and culture more generally should be celebrated today as it was in the roaring 20s.

This program will take place live online with an opportunity to interact with the instructor. Sessions will be recorded and made available for patrons for later viewing.

Book: Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ‘20s.

Remote Learning

This course is available for "remote" learning and will be available to anyone with access to an internet device with a microphone (this includes most models of computers, tablets). Classes will take place with a "Live" instructor at the date/times listed below.

Upon registration, the instructor will send along additional information about how to log-on and participate in the class.

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Refund Policy

Note: This provider has a temporary cancellation policy for COVID-19 related cancellations which is as follows:

Cancellations made 3 or more days in advance will receive a full credit for a rescheduled date with this provider   


Original cancellation policy (non-COVID-19):

Refund Policies:

92nd Street Y is not responsible for providing makeup classes or issuing refunds for programs missed as a result of illness, emergencies or other events beyond our control.

There are no refunds for outings, classes or workshops that meet fewer than three times per semester.

If you are unable to attend, you may contact Customer Service prior to the first date for a receipt that enables you to claim your contribution as a tax-deductible gift.

Unless otherwise noted in program description, the following schedule applies to programs which meet three times or more per semester:

  • To receive a 100% refund, written request must be received 2 weeks prior to the first session.
  • To receive a 75% refund, written request must be received at least one day prior to the first session.
  • To receive a 50% refund, written request must be received at least one day prior to the second session.
  • After that, refunds cannot be granted.

All refund requests must be submitted in writing to Customer Service. Refunds are computed from the date written notice is received.

To receive a refund, you must enclose the original of your confirmation letter.

Please allow three to four weeks for processing of your refund request. Processing fees, membership fees, auditions fees and class or exercise cards are not refundable. No cash refunds.


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