I am not the type to go out of my way to shop. In fact, I usually avoid it. Somehow, this past week I ended up shopping four (five if you count a return trip) times at four different prominent shopping malls in the Greater Cairo Area. It was moderately enjoyable experience, but I probably won’t do it again anytime soon. From this accidental shopping-fest I gained some cool stuff, good times with cool people, and insight on the most popular shopping areas. Check it out:
City Stars: Located in Nasser city, a nice (almost) suburb to East. City Stars is the hugest, poshest, least Egyptian mall in all of Egypt. It boasts 700 different brand name stores, food venders, a grocery store, and movie theaters. It is very clean with an over the top faux old Euro decor. I went there with my Spanish roommate. On one floor every other store we passed seemed to be Spanish in origin. City Stars is where you go when you’re homesick, enjoy people looking down their noses at you, and want to blow even more money than you usually would on American Eagle. This was my least favorite shopping experience. BUT I did get some cool socks that look like denim with jean pockets!
Khan el-Khalili: The tourist trap in Islamic Cairo. It is the longest continually and currently open street Bazaar. Ever. You have to see it at least once, and you must purchase your friends’ travel presents there, but you might as well leave it at that. It is the opposite experience from City Stars, but equally unpleasant after the initial aw wears off (exactly like City Stars). It is crowded, dirty, and every product is Egypt themed. Store clerks shout as you pass, “I have what you’re looking for!” “Let me take your money!” and “I will make you happy forever!” The only way to avoid being ripped-off is to haggle like your life depends on it. Usually, it is overrun with foreigners, but during the nights of Ramadan the population is surprisingly native. It’s always a trip when you go the Khan. I will undoubtedly I will be forced to go back with friends at some point, at which time I may just have to buy a slinky belly dancing galabeya...
Mall of Arabia (MOA, hee hee): I don’t know if anyone outside of 6 October City cares about the Mall of Arabia, but for us 6 Oh kids this mall has been a long time coming. I remember seeing all kinds of advertisements for this baby two years ago. It feels like a mall, sterile and modern. It’s pretty big and includes a kind of courtyard with a “dancing fountain” and a food court. MOA will always have a place near and dear to my heart because the food court includes the only Dairy Queen in all of Egypt. The mall is pricey by Egyptian standards, but I got a cute dress for a good price (I’ll never be able to wear it in Egypt, but whatever). I admit MOA, Arabia, doesn’t compare to the MOA, America, but it’s doing it’s best, and it’s in 6 October so I like it more than I should.
Wust el-Balad: And the award for best shopping experience of the week goes to... DOWNTOWN! I personally have perused the area around Talat Harb Square. It’s central, cheap, lively, and genuinely Egyptian (rather than Ancient Egyptian themed, or desperately foreign). A lot of the stores sell higabi (veiled woman) versions of H&M-like merchandise. There is some cute stuff. There are also a lot of street vendors around with cheap T-shirts, scarves, shoes, and underwear. I personally would not buy my intimates at a street vendor, but to each his own. I purchased a lovely map of the world in Arabic, and a spongebobagab (what I call a scarf with spongebob printed on it). You can also find some terribly translated shirts in English that are always great for a laugh. The best part about shopping downtown is that there is always an ‘ahwa nearby. If you’re ever downtown, ask to be directed to Borssa, that’s where the cool kids hang out ;)