Volume I, Number 5 October 1st, 2000
by Juergen Stryjak
There is no window-shopping in Cairo without passing by all kinds of spacious displayed fabrics. Whether you walk through shopping malls, the streets downtown or across markets, the colorful materials, rich of ornaments and weaves, leap to your eyes everywhere, and you probably will regret, if you have no current need and no extra luggage space for a new cover for that whole upholstered corner unit at home. Yet, it needs only a little imagination to find a place where one could use such a nice, woven souvenir. Your old chair at the veranda, for example, or your mother-in-laws bathroom window.
I am not a fabric specialist and therefore cannot fairly judge the quality or the selection here in town, but I know that nowhere in the world, except in Cairo, do I get sudden fits of craving to buy some of these bewitching and lively examples of woven art. That certainly speaks for the supply.
One of the best and most entertaining places to buy fabric in Cairo is the Wekalat Al-Balah, a whole neighborhood dedicated to that stuff and to spare parts, car covers, all sorts of new and second hand clothes and plenty of other goods. Motorbike and power saw chains, for example. I know tourists normally arent very keen on such things, but a complete alley only for motorbike chains that looks very impressive.
A large selection of fabrics, curtains, lace panels is sold at the Wekalat Al-Balah in numerous little cubbyholes, outside in the alleys by street vendors and in large, palace-like shops, often two or three stories high, supported by beautiful white pillars soaring skyward, a breath-taking revolt from tasteless clutter.
The Wekalat Al-Balah follows the eternal free market mechanism. The existence of dozen of similar shops guarantees low prices. Low prices draw lots of customers, especially here on Fridays, and lots of customers guarantee a decent profit, despite of the low prices. At the end, everybody is happy. In the Wekalat Al-Balah you can get fabrics for the half of what you have to pay in single, lonely shops at other places. Heavy furniture fabric starts at LE 20 ($ 5.50) per meter. Dont forget to bargain.
Other shops offer bed linen, garden furniture fabric, unbelievably inexpensive towels in glowing colors, which certainly will loose their color after the twentieth wash, and clothing of all kinds. Seriously, how could you resist a t-shirt with the imprint GRLS & FLWRS, missing the vowels, obviously because Arabic language, similar to Hebrew, consists of mostly consonants? How about a yellow Egyptian workingmans boiler suit, which certainly nobody else wears in your techno discotheque at home? Our son, two and a half years old, is a car maniac. So, we were very happy to present him after our last visit in the Wekalat Al-Balah a t-shirt with the picture of a cement mixer truck.
Wekalat Al-Balah. A market just north of the 15th May Bridge, where the 26th July Street is crossing the Nile, 400 meters (1,300 feet) south of the World Trade Center. Best shopping times: afternoon and early evening, Sunday closed. Another area with fabric shops: at the corner 26th July Street/Gomhorriyya Street, near to the Ezbekiyya Garden, Downtown, Metro station Al-Ataba. Shops for high-end fabrics to fall in love with: World Trade Center (Corniche Al-Nil, next to the Conrad International Hotel) and First Mall (35, Giza Street, Giza).
Welcome to the Ancient Egyptian Home By Ilene Springer
Historical Hotels in Egypt - Part IV By Jimmy Dunn
Editor's Commentary By Jimmy Dunn
Ancient Beauty Secrets By Judith Illes
Book Reviews Various Editors
Kid's Corner By Margo Wayman
Cooking with Tour Egypt By Mary K Radnich
Hotel Reviews By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian Exhibitions By deTraci Regula
Nightlife Various Editors
Restaurant Reviews Various Editors
Shopping Around By Juergen Stryjak
Egyptian View-Point By Adel Murad
Web Reviews By Siri Bezdicek
last updated: June 8th, 2011