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, as well as a soya latte to keep up the shopping spirits?
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.
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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