Read, browse, yell! The Cairo bookshop with a screaming room

Here’s a key; you can lock yourself in,” says regular screamer Mohammed el-Debbaby as he closes the heavy, wooden door to the scream room. I am left alone in the padded room, the faint sound of a John Legend track leaking through the door serving a reminder that this room isn’t quite as soundproof as advertised.

It takes me about 10 minutes to work up a scream (five of them are spent doubled over with laughter). Eventually, I cover my ears tightly with my hands, shut my eyes and meditate on the horrors of this year. The three screams I manage start in the pit of my stomach, rising up until I feel the vibrations in the back of my throat, each a little shorter than the last.

Bab Aldonia (The World’s Door) bookshop and cafe in Cairo opened its scream room about a month ago, converting what was previously used solely as a practice space for bands into a place where visitors can scream their lungs out, kick the walls or generally let rip – free of charge. Given Egypt’s much-reported lack of freedom of expression, not to mention Cairo’s smoggy, car-clogged streets, a scream room seems a fitting antidote to daily life there.

Mohammed el-Debbaby using the scream room
‘Every citizen in the world has issues – they all need to just get it out’ … Mohammed el-Debbaby using the scream room. Photograph: Ruth Michaelson for the Guardian

Having read about similar “anger-management rooms” in cities such as Tokyo and Los Angeles, the bookshop’s manager, Abdel-Rahman Saad, decided the concept was worth bringing to Cairo. So far, 12 people have visited the shop just to scream – and the majority were women. “Their reactions are different each time,” he says. “Some find it cathartic – they leave smiling and laughing.”

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El-Debbaby, also known as Bobby, says he has used the room about seven times since the room opened and has begun to see it as a kind of off-the-cuff primal-scream therapy. “This act can help cure disease,” he says, puffing on a cigarette. “It’s not about Cairo or even about Egypt. Every citizen in the world has issues – they all need to just get it out. Sometimes talking is not enough.”

When Bobby enters the scream room, he prefers to let loose while using the drum kit in the corner. For his eighth scream, he began by building up a gentle rhythm on the drums, eyes closed. After a minute or two, he let out a low scream, a shout of uncontained rage. As he relaxed into it, his screams became more regular, before he leaned back and exhaled gently, sweat beading on his forehead.

“How do you feel?” I ask. “So good. It’s like drugs!” he jokes, laughing as he put his glasses back on.

There is a definite pre-scream and post-scream feeling, brought into sharper focus by the sore throat I feel for the rest of the afternoon. But knowing there is a room available for a good scream is a comforting thought.

Credit: The Guardian

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Read, browse, yell! The Cairo bookshop with a screaming room

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