By Juergen Stryjak
A decade ago during my first trip to Egypt, I purchased entire shelves of music tapes because I was in need of a large amount of souvenirs. It was the best and most successful souvenir buying of my life. Because of that huge success, I repeated my Operation Noise Maker again and again, year after year. And the success continues. The best idea was to buy a tape by Egyptian pop singer Mohamed Mounir. He mixes Nubian, Egyptian and Western sounds in a way that is very pleasant for Western ears, too and, even more convenient, this diligent musician produces a new tape every year or so. In one action, I was able to remove five persons from that everlasting bothersome souvenir list, alhamdulillah! I only have to give them the latest Mohamed Mounir album, that's all, very easy! They have subscribed to that souvenir service.
Egyptian music tapes are also the ideal gift for the home aloners. They are cheap, available in a wide, if not wild, range of styles and genres, their interesting covers look exotic because of the Arabic letters and they go through customs as a very politically correct gift, giving you the image of nothing less than being an ambassador between the cultures. What can you want? And, if it is the price and not the inherent value of a gift, which is important for your people, then bring them a CD instead of a tape.
Music tapes make the best souvenirs for yourself, too. After traveling two or three weeks through Egypt, sooner or later you will have the desire to preserve the timbre of life which is surrounding you the whole day, and music is, without any doubt, an important part of this. With music tapes, you can buy the soundtrack to your trip to Egypt, to some of the most fascinating memories in your life. Wherever you listen to music, in the tour bus, the taxi, in cafeterias or a friend's flat, don't forget to ask someone to write down the tape and singer's name in Arabic. To get the tape later you only have to show the paper to the salesclerk.
The best place in Cairo for buying music tapes is certainly the Shawarby Street downtown, a pedestrian precinct between Quasar Al-Nil and Abd Al-Khaliq Sarwat Street, with shops for cheap clothes
and cut-rate perfume, shoe kiosks and plastic toy vendors and with a large number of small stores for music tapes, videotapes and CDs. For between LE 6 and LE 10 ($ 1.70$ 2.80) you can get latest Egyptian pop releases by Amr Diab or Mohamed Mounir as well as a large selection of classics by the famous Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum or by the legendary Farid Al-Attrash. A very special way to remember your vacation is to listen to the tapes of famous Qur'an reciting, as for example the recordings of the incomparable Mohamed Gabriel, Egypt's contemporary superstar in this field. Beside this the shops offer a great choice of cheap tapes with Western music (LE 8=$ 2.30), from Led Zeppelin to the Spice Girls, from hip hop to techno or even the indestructible Saturday Night Fever sound.
If you are in need for Arabic wrestling videos or "Titanic" and "Rambo" with Arabic subtitles or for some of the wonderful Egyptian black-and-white vintage movies, then the Shawarby Street is your place, too. CD's, although available, are best purchased in shops like Jukebox, the biggest CD-store in town. They have always around 20.000 CD's in stock, Western as well as a decent selection of Arabic recordings, but be prepared to pay Western prices there.
For an overview of Egyptian Music, see the Tour Egypt Special Edition, Seven Millennia of Performance.
Shawarby Street, between Kasr Al-Nil and Abd Al-Khalig Sarwat Street. The shops open around 10:00 am (except on Fridays: 14:00 pm) and close around 10:00 pm.
Jukebox. Second floor of the World Trade Center Shopping Mall (next to CONRAD International Hotel). Corniche Al-Nil 1191. Bulaq, Cairo. Telephone: +2-02-257 82 980. Working Hours: daily 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Last Updated: June 8th, 2011