Volume I, Number 2, July 1st, 2000
If you visit the Orman Botanical Garden and after that the Giza Zoo, upon departure, you probably will be enthusiastic about the comparatively small entrance fees for these attractions. Just 1 Egyptian Pound (LE) together, around 30 cent, will get you into both of that ancient gardens. And if you are a family of, let's say, four persons, you will have saved at the end a tidy sum of money, considering the sometimes exorbitantly high entrance fees of similar Western facilities.
In case you want to spend your savings immediately, let's go to the First Mall, just in front of the Giza Zoo. The mall's building connects the two newly opened towers of Cairo's First Residence, a housing complex, which includes the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo (see Hotel Review), a casino and some of the most expensive apartments in Egypt's capital. It is rumored that the country's legendary belly dancer queen, Fifi Abdou, bought an apartment here for 3 Million Dollars, but I don't know if this is true or not. (If she could only sell all the rumors about her, she would be the first belly dancer around the world to become rich completely without dancing.)
The First Mall houses a number of shops of well-known international designer labels. You will find Versace as well as Bvlgari or Aigner. Other Egypt-based companies like Concrete Clothes or Maghrebi Optics having their outlets here sell their own collections as well as all sorts of international brands like Hugo Boss clothes or Police glasses. It may seem to be boring to have shops recommended which sell the same items as at home, but first of all, not all the shops there do this, and secondly, sometimes, not always, these things are considerably less expensive than at home. Bargain hunters will find good buys.
Egypt is famous for its high quality, long staple cotton, and the land has become one of the biggest cotton producers around the world. So it is no surprise that Hugo Boss and Pierre Chardin, to mention only two, manufacture their clothes partially in Egypt. But among experts, Egypt is also well known for its properly trained and creative fashion designers. Don't hesitate to have a look into shops whose names are unknown to you. Concrete, Dalydress, MM - all of them offer first class clothes, often styled following the latest trends. In the Dalydress Signature Men shop I found exclusive suits including vest for between 1,000 and 1,400 Pound ($ 280-400), and at Concrete's I saw equally elegant, even more trendy suits for just the half of that money.
Beside all sorts of fashion, men's, women's and children's, you will find shops for furniture fabrics, perfumes and cosmetics, watches, gifts, silver, optiques and antiques. If your children had rather toys than, let's say, the marvelous copper work, mirrors, chandeliers and chests, made by the famous Randa Fahmy Metalwork, then you have to disappoint your dears. No toy shop in the mall. And if they don't stop to whine, a pharmacy provides you with Rivo, the Egyptian brand of aspirin.
La Gourmandise Brasserie, a cafeteria in the middle of the airconditioned mall, surrounds a fountain and a catwalk for fashion shows, offers cappuccino and fresh orange juice for LE 6 ($ 1.70), freshly squeezed Mango juice for LE 10 ($ 3) and also alcoholic beverages, wine, aperetifs, whiskies and wine, but, as always in Egypt, much more expensive than what you are used to at home: as for example beer for 12 to 25 Egyptian Pound the bottle ($ 3.40-7.20). In the cafeteria you can sit and watch the elevators - of glass and framed in gold - coming up and down, a very sedative activity.
If the food at La Gourmandise Brasserie seems to be too expensive in your opinion, then leave the mall and enter one of the Pizza Hut or Kentucky Fried Chicken branches beside the building, and your children will appreciate this. The neighborhood around the mall is one of the places in Cairo which only recently gained a touch of urban flair, with some nice terrace cafs along the Nile, a TGI Friday's and a Fishmarket outlet on the Americana boat ( try the Molokhiyya at Fishmarket), the especially beautiful by night Pharaos Floating Restaurant and the large two-story Alfa supermarket - and not to forget, the gardens, the zoological as well as the botanical. But I don't want to keep you in the dark: Neither the Giza Zoo nor the Orman Garden are really sightseeing highlights, at least not because of their animals and plants. But if you want to get known to locals, then I can highly recommend both places. Especially on Fridays and on public or religious holidays they are jam-packed with chirpy day trippers of all ages.
In the evening, after sunset, at the end of that eventful day, please, don't forget to take the Nile Bus back downtown, these little, quick ferries which have their landing place 200 meters/600 feet north of TGI Friday's. For only LE 1 (30 cent) you can't get a better view of the illuminated city from the river.
First Mall, located at the First Residence building. 35, Giza Street, Giza, Cairo.
Last Updated: June 12th, 2011