Boats have been synonymous with misbehaviour in Cairo since they were used in the Middle Ages on the seasonal lakes that filled when the Nile rose. In the mid-twentieth century, the neighbourhood of Aguza, wedged between Mohandiseen and the Nile, was a popular mooring place for houseboats. One of them was occupied during World War II by a famous bellydancer, Hekmet Fathy, who used to entice Allied staff officers aboard to inveigle secrets from them on behalf of the Nazis. Also involved was a young Egyptian officer, Anwar Sadat, who attempted to convey messages to Rommel and was subsequently jailed by the British for treason. Even today, the Aguza and the surrounding area is known for naughtiness: many Gulf Arabs spend the summer here, and “Saudi flats” has become a euphemism for prostitution in this part of town. What the Saudi-linked Salafists now prominent in Egyptian politics, will do about this remains to be seen.

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