Ah, just as the blog was almost happening in real time, I found this in my Drafts folder. A little treat from the winter Egypt trip. It all makes me a bit nostalgic. They have bad taxidermy here in Beirut, but not so much of the other attractions.
Downtown Cairo is one of the world’s more nonsensical shopping districts. Every other store is selling shoes. The ones that aren’t selling shoes are selling either lavishly embroidered galabiyyas or somewhat shocking lingerie. If you wander off the main streets, you wind up in an area where all the shops sell prosthetic limbs.
I didn’t want to take a picture of the lingerie, because it seemed like too much of an obvious conversation-starter for any random dude on the sidewalk, but here’s something nice for the gentlemen:
It’s gotten a little crazier since the revolution, as the police aren’t out to keep the sidewalk vendors in line. They’ve gone nuts downtown. It makes it very hard to walk, but I have to give props to the guys who sell men’s clothing on Talaat Harb at night. I saw one stand in the middle of traffic, forcing cars to stop, while he unpacked a bale of made-in-China Versice jeans. Occupy for ad-hoc capitalism!
More prosaically, it’s easier than ever to buy a headscarf. And women are wearing them double- and triple-ply, carefully selected to match their outfits. Haven’t seen such color-coordinating since middle school. Or felt so totally uncool.
Competition has forced shop displays to get more outlandish. Or at least that’s how I’m rationalizing something like this:
And this might be explained by the fact that it was getting close to Halloween. Or maybe not.
I read a while ago (I believe in Max Rodenbeck’s great Cairo: The City Victorious) that when Cairo was at its peak in the early 20th century, the most elite downtown shops would display, for instance, a single perfect shoe. Now the strategy is reversed. When in doubt, put as much out on display as possible.
But when a shop is so bursting with love, as this one is, how can you not love it back? Same goes for Cairo, you see.