HomeMiddle EastEgypt's middle-class are in the market for bargains

Egypt’s middle-class are in the market for bargains

CAIRO: Cairo locals are familiar with all the hidden gems that lie in the city’s many markets. Here, a person can find trainer from a major household brand such as Adidas or Nike for less than EGP 100 ($6.5) or a pair of jeans for no more than EGP 75. But they can also kit out their homes with bargains.

There’s a very large second-hand market in the city center, in the Al-Imam Al-Shafi’i area near the mausoleum of Sayyida Aisha. Merchants set up their stalls on Fridays and Sundays and sell almost anything a person could need.

The market used to be popular with the poorer sections of society, but it has recently been transformed by what has happened in Egyptian society into a market for the middle class.

Fouad, a merchant in the market who sells used ceramic ware, told Arab News: “People are looking for ceramic flooring that has been discarded and one of the second-hand dealers has picked up. People are also looking for second- and third-grade marble.”

Prices start from EGP 10 per square metre and can reach up to EGP 100. “Each type and shape has its own customer.”

“The market also includes wallpaper factory rejects; the seller and buyer know that they have manufacturing defects, but the skill lies in their ability to make use of them. Here we sell it for about EGP 20 to 30, and I do very well out of it,” he said.

Shops selling secondhand furniture have sprouted up in middle-class neighborhoods, taking over whole streets, for example, the “Maadi Gardens” area located in the old and upscale neighborhood of Maadi. Used furniture shops have become a major feature in this area, selling everything from curtains, carpets and kitchen appliances to complete kitchens.

“The shops are in great demand. There are those who want to renovate their kitchens, and there are those who want to buy a bed for children, an electric heater or a deep freezer. Instead of the Egyptian citizen buying all these things new, he comes here and buys them used for a cheaper price, and in good condition,” Sabri Al-Serjani, a young merchant in second-hand shops, told Arab News.

He said that they sell furniture discarded by wealthy owners who had either bought new pieces or moved to the outskirts of New Cairo. Some believe in the principle that if their house is new, it needs new furniture. So they leave the used furniture to the merchants, who sell them to the children of the middle class or the poor.

Sellers of old and rare coins and postage stamps gather on Saturdays in Tawfiqia Market in downtown Cairo, near Emad El Din Street, the street that used to be the address for cinemas and theaters.

They are joined by men selling used watches, old plates and early mobile phones such as the Ericsson 688 and the Nokia 5110, as well as old newspapers and books.

“One of the sellers offered me a very valuable Swiss watch and only asked for EGP 300. After some haggling I was able to buy it for EGP 150. When I went to watch stores in Cairo I discovered that it was a rare watch, and I received offers of thousands of pounds for the watch, but I refused to sell it,” said Ahmed, a young shopper who is a regular at the market.

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