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Terry dances at the Luxor Nightclub
Photos by Jamal

Gilded Serpent presents...
My Disastrous Experience
at the New Luxor Restaurant
in South San Francisco!

by Sadira

I was recently invited by a close dance friend to join her, along with four other dancers to experience the newest dance/nightclub venue in South San Francisco.  She informed me it was a very fancy dinner club, with live Egyptian music and a dancer.  There was a prix-fixed fee of $30.00 per person (not including drinks or desert), that included the live music, dancer's show and a meal.  Perhaps I'm not totally sophisticated, but $30.00 a plate to see a dancer and listen to live music is in the expensive range for my usual travels. [The price has now risen to $40 -ed] This sounded exciting and I happily embarked on our personal caravan to experience The Luxor Nightclub.

I have seen many varieties of shows in my career, extending from North Beach to the traditional Moroccan dinner ambiance.  I have danced in various Middle Eastern styled restaurants and don't consider myself a novice regarding the variety of foods, or ambiance of these familiar venues;

however, The Luxor was about to throw all my preconceptions about entertainment venues to the winds.

First of all The Luxor is located in a quiet, rather run down area of town.  The outside of this huge restaurant/nightclub has a rather small sign signaling its existence.  Though the sign is a beautiful picture of a pyramid and advertises "Mediterranean Food", the entrance to the club had huge remnant architecture of a prior chain restaurant.   For the Saturday nightclub show, the main restaurant is closed off and you are instructed to enter by a side entrance.  Reservations are necessary.

The interior is glamorous, beautiful with its mural sized paintings of Egyptian hieroglyphs and Queen Nefertiti.  It is a huge space with dining tables set around a midnight blue dance floor with palm trees and Art Deco styled Egyptian lamps fringing the stage.  Very impressive. This is indeed a fancy place to dine. The owner greeted us warmly at the door, recognizing two of the dancers in our party.

We were then escorted to a table that was almost obscured behind the palm trees that flanked the stage and seemed to be in a more darkened area of the club. 

Since this is a nightclub, Egyptian style, the evening does not start until after 9:00pm. By this time our group was eagerly awaiting our $30.00 a plate dinners.  We did not notice any menus or notes on the table regarding what was being served.  The only sign on each table explained that drinks could not be served after 1:30 a.m. and no alcohol could be taken home from the premises.

This club could easily sit 200 people at banquet sized tables.  When we arrived, there were about six other occupied tables besides ours.  Since we had a disadvantaged view of the stage or the dance floor from where we were seated, we asked a waiter if we could move to a table one row up, which gave us a better view of the club.  He politely accommodated us. 

That was the last accommodation we would receive during the evening's unfolding events.

We noticed patrons around us being brought drinks, and food, yet not one waiter stopped by our table.  I had to finally tap on the arm of a waiter as he was rushing by our table.  He seemed a little put out to have to talk to us.  When asked if there was a menu to order from, he looked quite shocked and stated, "This is a nightclub, where you pay a fixed price of $30.00 which includes food, and the live entertainment, there is no menu."  He pointed to patrons around us, who were receiving different plates of unknown foods..and said, "Everyone is served the same meal".  Well, perhaps I am naive, but for $30.00 a plate, I'd like to at least have an idea what we are going to be served. When I again asked what the meal was comprised of, he look bewildered, told us to look at other people's tables and walked off.  Two of our company had to practically tie him down just to get a drink order.

This had already started me off in a bad disposition.  Next a different waiter appears at our table, almost as if he was begrudgingly stopping by.  I again asked if there was a list of what came with the dinner show for the menu.  He looked in his order book and started to ramble off a list of various meza plates, when I asked what one of the orders was, he just shrugged his shoulders and never finished telling us what we were getting.

Luckily the band started playing.  This was one of the only saving graces I could find about this nightclub.

  It was an excellent band with a singer, drummer, keyboard player and various electronic musical effects.  The singer had an excellent voice and the music was wonderful to hear live.  At this point, more and more people were coming in for the show.  Everyone there was Middle Eastern; I didn't think much of this at the time, being used to being in many clubs and restaurants that catered mainly to Middle Easterners.

Our waiter finally arrived and began feverishly throwing a variety of dishes on our table, which he didn't name.  It was obviously a meza collection, but in the dark ambiance it was hard to see what everything was that was being slammed onto our table.  There was tons of hummus, Babaghanouj, a special yogurt dish, tabbouli, a coleslaw type salad, pita bread, olives, feta cheese and pickled vegetables.  Large quantities of everything.  When the waiter was asked which specific things were, he said he didn't know and said, "Yeah...it's what she just said" as one of my friends was identifying one of the dishes.   We were all feeling really uncomfortable about the strange treatment we were receiving.   Well, we figured this was what the whole meal must have consisted of, since we hadn't seen any other food and nothing else was mentioned.  Though I have to say the food was excellent and plentiful.  But that high of a price for just Meza and a live show..I was beginning to get a sour taste in my mouth.

Just as we began to calm down and enjoy our food,  the owner comes fiercely striding towards our table with a scowl and a dark look on his face.  He begins to berate and yell at us for moving from our original table.

I felt that at any moment the "boys" were going to take us out back and shoot us for our grave belligerence.  He informed us that we were had been originally seated at a particular table (the worst in the house, when there was about 100 other better tables unfilled), reserved for us alone.  He stated that the table we were moved to  was especially reserved for a particular party.  Behind him we noticed a group of Egyptian men and women.  He (the owner) kept demanding that we move back to our original places or explain the meaning of such horrendous behavior as reseating ourselves.  Most of us didn't say a word, feeling a sense of eminent doom like being thrown out through a window.  Obviously these must have been rather special customers;.but they were eventually reseated at a table that was clearly even a better table than the one we were occupying.  I have never felt such wrath directed toward me as a paying customer in any establishment.

It was then that I began to try to understand why we seemed to be treated so rudely, and with a finality and unattentiveness to our table and selves.  I thought to myself: isn't my patronage and money just the same as anyone else's?  Why is there a concerted effort of tension around just our group?  

More food arrived, with no explanation of its contents.  The final meal included falafels, and a mouthwatering entree of rice and bugler pilaf with Lulah Kebab and marinated chicken pieces.  The food was definitely worth the price.  But when we requested to keep unfinished plates of food on the table, they were whisked away immediately.

At around 11:00 p.m., the dancer came out.  The dancer was Terry, a beautiful woman who understood a very traditional Egyptian cabaret style of dance. 

The audience loved her, and she danced her heart out.  She included Raks Al Assaya as part of her routine and not only was she a superb dancer, but she had a lovely smile that encompassed the entire audience.  She was very connected with the musicians and their rapport was evident.

In true Egyptian style she was showered with dollar bills during her performance from both men and women alike.  It is a Turkish tradition to put tips on the dancer's body, while in Egypt and some other countries it is considered improper and vulgar.

The evening was still in full swing, with the band playing for at least two hours and the dance show before their first break.

I had to admit that once we were served the full menu, the food was excellent, plentiful and well worth the price.  But the uncertainties of not knowing what you were going to be served and the rude half slop house/ contempt service from most of the staff made it hard for us to fully enjoy the meal.

There seemed to be a concerted effort to get us out of the nightclub as soon as they could.

When I asked for a cup of coffee, I was informed that they did not serve coffee, as the restaurant section was closed, and the nightclub area didn't have coffee made.  The second waiter I asked responded that there was coffee and came back to our table with some. This was followed by endless requests for such simple necessities as cream, spoons etc. as they rushed past our table.  If unfinished food was asked to be wrapped up, only one plate would be taken, wrapped up and returned to the guest.  Each respective person had to grab a waiter and ask for their leftovers to be wrapped.  I have never seen such strange behavior in my life.

It eventually, to my horror, dawned on me why such hostile behavior was directed towards us as patrons.  We were the only non Middle Eastern people in the entire club; we were also a table of five women with no male escorts.  I understood immediately that this club did not want to share its cultural style with non Middle Eastern people.

For all the ups and downs of various clubs and restaurants and owners from many countries that we have all experienced as dancers, not once have I ever seen the xenophobic discrimination I experienced at The Luxor nightclub.  It was not only my feeling, but that of everyone that came with us.  It's a shock and maybe in some ways an interesting journey to the other side of negative racial discrimination.  But it was a sad experience, too, especially since the band, music and dancer were all first rate--what anyone would have loved to experience.

Sorry, Luxor, but I will never recommend you to anyone I know. Instead, I will warn others against even thinking of having a worthwhile evening at your club.

The Luxor Nightclub
101 Brentwood Drive.

South San Francisco, California
650-737-7900
Owners: Rocky Kardosh and Nabil El Safy
Nightclub hours start at 9:00 PM

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