Real Egyptians don’t spent their time hanging out at the pyramids or shopping in Khan el-Khalili, obviously. So where would a girl like me head to on a Saturday afternoon for a spot of retail therapy and a gossip with friends? If you want to know where to shop in Cairo, the answer is CityStars, a huge modern mall that has everything from H&M and Marks & Spencer to Starbucks and frozen yoghurt. And like any shopping centre at the end of the summer, the sales are on – result!
It’s all very well enjoying some exotic market shopping and tracking down local treasures when you’re in another city, country or continent, but sometimes you just crave a taste of home, or need to buy something basic. Maybe it’s just me but even if I don’t need a thing I always check out the local shopping centres – I can get lost for hours amongst the nik naks in a strange supermarket and the lotions in a foreign pharmacy, and I just get a kick out of seeing what’s in style wherever I am, as well as what the locals’ buying habits are.
In Cairo the best way to get some international-standard shopping is by heading to a mall. CityStars is a favourite of residents of the upmarket Heliopolis area and was previously the biggest mall in Egypt (and apparently the Middle East, though having been to Dubai I have to assume that title has long gone). There’s now an even larger shopping hub in Cairo, the 1 million square metre Mall of Arabia across the Nile on the other side of Cairo, but with 7 entrances, 643 shops, cinemas, a food court and 3 hotels, CityStars remains a major shopping expedition which requires determination, stamina and a decent time-frame to conquer it. Advice from locals is to avoid at weekends, although I went on a Friday and found it pleasantly buzzy without being crowded.
While I was at CityStars I headed for brands which I don’t have access to in London, like Charles & Keith where I got a nice new handbag (‘cos there’s no souvenir like a leather souvenir) but I should probably point out that the bag and everything else in the mall was on sale at European prices – clothing and accessories I checked out were exactly what I would expect to pay in London or any other major city and I assume it puts the wares out of the reach of a large proportion of Egyptians, but the middle and upper classes were shopping away happily, the ladies in a mixture of Western-style and covered outfits, in keeping with much of Cairo society.
I then headed for somewhere I could get a soya frappuccino (I do this a lot. Don’t judge me.). Sadly both branches of Starbucks in CityStars were out of soya milk (but I know it exists in branches of Starbucks in Egypt as I had a soya-based coffee in Starbucks in Naama Bay, Sharm El Sheikh), so I went with frozen yoghurt instead, which was pretty good. Although trying to shop one handed while clutching a frozen yoghurt piled with brownies and raspberries proved to limit my spending abilities somewhat!
CityStars Shopping Mall,
Omar Ibn El Khattab Street, Heliopolis, Cairo
Note: There are airport style security bag checks in operation as you enter the mall
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