We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

A trip to the hypermarket

Yes, you read that correctly. The local superstore is called a hypermarket. And, really, could you think of a better name? It perfectly conveys the sense of urgency and anxiety and stress such stores engender.

So yesterday, I called up the trusty taxi driver and asked him to take me to the new mall that also holds the hypermarket (and that’s indeed where he took me, not to his friend the perfumer). I wanted to get some kitchen stuff plus a lunch box for Bug and it’s been quite a challenge to find this stuff closer to home. I know it’s here, somewhere, but where?

At the hypermarket, I went first to the back-to-school section. How did I know it was the back-to-school section? There were banners all over with white kids and English writing that said, “Back to School!”

The place was riddled with backpacks and pencils and crayons and pen holders and paper and other school supplies. And it seemed every backpack featured either Barbie or Spiderman. There was also the obligatory local version, with a pale girl wearing a head scarf. I suspect that the Egyptian princess may be more popular with the parents than with their daughters. It’s sad that she’s so fair. Not that every Egyptian is dark, not at all. But most are not what we’d think of as fair-complexioned. (But most of the men do not have beards, which is what someone asked, so perhaps you were wondering, too.)

I finally found the lunch boxes, which were plastic cases featuring, yes, Barbie or Spiderman. There was not one single plain box there. Honestly, it was worse than in the US. Folks, this is cultural imperialism at its worst. No wonder the whole world hates Americans but wears American crap–sometimes it’s the only stuff you can find!

Some things here are so cheap, while others are ridiculously expensive. I needed some skirt hangers, the kind with clips, but it was going to cost something like $8 for two. So clever me, I bought regular plastic hangers and some clothespins. I’m know I’m not the first person to figure this out, but I sure felt like a genius!

I gathered my things and spent my money while navigating the shopping cart with four rotating wheels, which makes it feel like it’s on ice. I then went to the very expensive children’s store and paid something like $9 for a plastic Pooh lunchbox, officially licensed and all that. I’m not sure why Pooh offends me less, but there you go. And Bug is thrilled with his lunchbox (if he even knows it will hold his lunch–that much is unclear).

You can find just about everything here. We bought and shipped tons of stuff that now seems unnecessary–lots of toiletries, for example–because it’s available locally, if priced a bit higher. Though I’m glad we sent diapers. Local diapers aren’t so great, and the American brands are priced very high. I haven’t yet located a file cabinet or manilla file folders. Hanging file folders, yes, but without a file cabinet, they’re not much good, are they? I finally (because this was starting to feel epic) chose some plastic file folders and a small plastic file box, which are fine, but how do people here organize their papers?

These exciting mysteries and more perhaps I’ll solve over the next few months. Or maybe tomorrow: I’m going on an employer-sponsored shopping trip around town. I can’t wait.


24 August 2007 - Posted by | our life in egypt, shopping


  1. I first shopped at a hypermarket (Hypermarché) in France in 1982, and loved the name ‘way back then, too. It captures all that I loathe about big box stores.

    Before long you’ll probably discover some tiny little market in an alley, where everything plastic you could want will be available for individual sale.

    Comment by Monica | 24 August 2007

  2. Monica, you won’t be surprised to hear that this particular store is French–Carrefour.

    Comment by egypt4 | 24 August 2007

  3. Filing cabinets are found at some stationery stores like Samir and Ali, or at an office supply store like Mobica. Then there is the factory that makes your basic filing cabinet near me on the Mareyoutia Road on the way to Sakkara.

    The light skin thing is sad but a very old tradition here. After all, even the tomb paintings show the women as being lighter than the men.

    Comment by Maryanne Stroud Gabbani | 25 August 2007

  4. Maryanne, thank you for the local insight into office supplies!

    Also, wow, it’s incredible that the “tradition” goes back to the tomb paintings.

    Comment by egypt4 | 26 August 2007

  5. […] and I had a fun few days while Mr. Four stayed home with sick little Bug. Last week we went to the hypermarket Carrefour, where Santa decided Mr. Four needed a TV for Christmas. The installation guys have come twice to […]

    Pingback by Christmas in Cairo « We Four in Egypt | 23 December 2007

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