A mall is a mall…is a mall and it doesn’t really matter where you go in the world as these massive capitalist complexes of retail therapy remain the same.
Even in Europe. Even in Asia. Even in the Middle East. Even in Africa.
Cairo has several commercial centers. Some of them are seriously posh affairs with the likes of Tiffany & Co., Gucci and Versace competing for retail space. Others feature high-street brands along with a mix of supermarkets and locally owned boutiques that attract thousands of shoppers a day; people popping in to pick up groceries, household goods and perhaps a new item of clothing for an important job interview or a busy weekend with friends.
The thing about malls in Egypt is that aside from being places to buy stuff, they’re centers where people go to get away from the hustle and bustle of the region’s most populous city. When the punishing summer heat sets in in it’s a place where air conditioning keeps you cool and is resplendent with all the stuff people want and think they need. Malls are where youth go to escape from their parents and do all the things that young people do. They’re a place for people to connect and spend quality time bonding as they saunter from one shop to another. They’re the hot-spot where friends recline into mocha coloured couches and share gossip over piping hot Starbucks Venti lattes with caramel syrup and whip cream on top.
There are several malls in Cairo that strive to meet the demands of the millions of Cairenes that have money to burn. There’s First Mall in Giza and the sprawling Mall of Arabia in 6th of October City. There’s Dandy Mall out on Alex Desert Road and the über posh Beymen in Garden City. Of course there’s the grandiose and well-known City Stars in Cairo’s west end, the second largest mall in the Middle East that’s home to 643 stores, 2 indoor theme parks, a cinema complex, and various restaurants and cafés.
Then there’s Sun City Mall; a moderately sized complex that opened in early 2012 in the ever-independent republic of Heliopolis. I’m not a big mall person to begin with, but heading out to the far reaches of Egypt’s capital for a friend’s birthday dinner last week I found myself enjoying a walk around the mall.
Arriving early (3.5 years and I still haven’t gotten around to embracing “Egyptian time”) I had the opportunity to wander around the mall and engaging in some innocent window shopping; mentally adding items to my ever-growing holiday list. There’s a massive Carrefour and a few other smaller supermarkets, along with a cinema, several off-the-cuff clothing stores and brand name retail giants like Gap, H&M, Mango and Aldo.
There’s not much more to say since it is just a mall after all, but the thing I liked about Sun City is that it’s bright, it has a wide variety of shopping options, and while there are a fair number of people moving throughout the place, it’s not overly crowded. Usually there’s far more people at malls in Cairo after 17:00 and especially on the weekends. On this occasion however, I didn’t have to push through throngs of people to get from point A to B, and the atmosphere was more subdued – calm even – than some of the other malls in the city.
Though it’s quite a trek from central Cairo, it is a nice alternative to some of the other complexes in town. Sun City Mall is definitely something to keep in mind when you want to escape the Cairo heat (or even cold for that matter; the winter chill can be surprising). It’s also nice if you are keen to indulge in some retail therapy away from the grand souks and want the option of indulging in a quality coffee – or meal – to boot.