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The billboards are everywhere throughout Egypt’s capital. “Beyonce’s I Am…,” they read. America’s pop sensation stands amidst the lettering, a tank top, doubling as the front fender of a motorcycle, tight around her upper body.
“Are you going to Beyonce?” It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times in the past weeks, as the diva prepares to take the stage tonight at the Red Sea resort of Port Ghalib.
I, sadly, will not be in attendance. Nor, it would seem, will the Muslim Brotherhood.
Members of Egypt’s top Islamist party, and largest opposition group, have blasted the government in recent weeks for allowing Beyonce to take the stage in Egypt.
Hamdi Hassan, a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentarian, bashed the event, calling it a “sex party” in a widely distributed letter.
Hassan, along with other members of his party and the public, are using the event to question the government’s commitment to Islam by allowing the show to go on.
And this isn’t Beyonce’s first run in with Islamists. The singer was scheduled to perform a show in Malaysia late last month, which she cancelled at the last minute in the face of growing criticism by Muslims there.
This time, though, Beyonce seems determined to press ahead, with promises from the Egyptian government that security will be tightly managed.
The Muslim Brotherhood has experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in recent years, capturing an unprecedented 20 percent of seats in parliament in elections earlier this decade.
The popular shift towards the Islamists has sent the government scrambling to outflank the conservatives over the past few year. The government has taken a more aggressive stance in banning cultural fare that might be viewed as licentious by its 90 percent Muslim population.
But the government, it would seem, has made an exception for Beyonce.
While countries like the U.A.E. have hosted big names from the western music scene — with Coldplay, Aerosmith, and Beyonce, among others, playing there in the last few months alone —most American acts have left Egypt off their itineraries altogether.
In 1978, The Grateful Dead played 3 iconic concerts in front of the pyramids. After the last show, the band paraded back to the hotel in an entourage of 50 camels and horses, according to Rolling Stone.
Of course, there was no threat that Jerry Garcia would strap on a tank top for the encores.