Mall Country, cont’d: City Stars

This is a plaza of the City Stars Mall in Cairo. It is the second largest mall in the Middle East, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which has a ski slope inside.

There are tons of items available for sale, from the traditional to the wacky and out-of-place. Here we have a store selling very ornate, but conservative clothing. Their abayas are exquisitely beaded and stitched...

...While on the other side of the same store there is an impressive and good-quality lingerie boutique. Maybe this is normal to people here, but to me it is a mind-boggling clash of concepts.

You have tastefully conservative shops catering to the modern Muslim woman...

...and sumptuous evening gowns for posh affairs...

...or perhaps if loud and lewd is more your fancy, you've got lingerie that leaves little to the imagination. Subtlety is definitely out (fishnet crotchless bodystocking, anyone?).

It’s truly remarkable, the things the Arab world has for images of America and American culture.  Along with sweatshirts advertising the University of Michigan volleyball team for sale at H&M, I counted no less than 21 different American chain eateries.  This included the ubiquitous Mickey D’s, Burger King and KFC (Dejaaj Kentucky, in Arabic), there were Wagamama (Gracie, Em– I kid you not!!!!), Macaroni Grill, Starbucks, T.G.I.Friday’s, Fuddrucker’s, Cinnabon, Subway, Hardee’s, On the Border, Texas Chicken, Carvel,  Johnny Rockets, Pink Berry,  Pizza Hut, Sbarro, Ruby Tuesday, Chili’s, and Baskin Robbins.  How’s that for a little home-away-from-home?

It's amazing to see the kinds of things that follow you when you travel. This is in Toys R' Us, where most of the dolls have pale skin and blond hair and you can find Dora, next to Spongebob, next to Bratz. One of the student service coordinators who was showing us around the mall, told me that very few to no Egyptians play baseball. This one is waiting for an ex-pat with a hankerin' to pass on some classic Americana.

I could easily have closed my eyes in this H&M and, apart from the customers speaking French and Arabic, thought myself in King of Prussia. While we wended our way through leather skirts, sky-high heels and bulbous tote bags, Michael Jackson's "Bad" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" blared on the speakers.

H&M in Egypt, further proof that stereotypes about a foreign country don’t usually match up.  In the end, it’s taken a little digging, a little searching, a little shopping, to figure out just how multifaceted Egypt can be.



Filed under Egypt

2 responses to “Mall Country, cont’d: City Stars

  1. I’ve been studying architecture for over 30 years. It is safe to say that this building is the most aspiring one on the planet. Visit it once and you will agree with me!

  2. Pingback: Leaving Egypt | The Cultural Sponge

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