“What’s the point of building a new mall so close to Mall of Arabia if it’s got all the same stores and shops?”
That’s what my sister in law asked when I told her about our accidental outing to the new Mall of Egypt last weekend.
It was accidental because my husband and I were actually on our way to Mall of Arabia, where I insisted to go to do our grocery shopping last Saturday to continue my ongoing search for pancake syrup. In Egypt, the malls contain hypermarkets which have more variety than the regular supermarkets so I was sure that if I went to one I’d find syrup. You can compare them to what we call supercenters in the US, and they have everything from extra large triple packs of shampoo to electronics and fad-gadgets.
The trip to Mall of Arabia from the Pyramids District can be 45 minutes or more. We were 20 minutes into our trip passing by what I thought was still new construction when my husband asked the Uber driver “Shagal, yaany?” (Is it open for business?)
When the Uber driver replied, “Ah, shagal something-something meen youm el khamis” (Yes, it’s been open…..since Thursday), I may not have understand every word but I did understand that we would change our plans immediately and was happy to go to the new mall instead! So the first thing about the Mall of Egypt, is that if you live in Haram or are visiting the pyramids, a trip to the mall is now much shorter!
Walking into a new mall I got the same feeling children do when they step foot into a theme park for the first time. I beamed with excitement as I took in the sight of all the people, the shiny new decor, and heard the smooth jazz that rang through the corridors. You could feel the buzz in the air as all of the guests reveled in the thrill of being able to “shop” somewhere new. I say “shop” because based upon the activity going on it was obvious that many of them were sightseers or there for groceries, just like us.
There was a crowd gathered to observe a fashion show being held, which were were too busy following our stomachs to get a glimpse of, and though there were some people dotted around the clothing and specialty stores, the cashier lines were sparse if they existed at all.
Whereas the food court and Carrefour hypermarket were places of utter chaos. Normally, we avoid food courts but literally none of the eat-in restaurants were open yet, so we had to choice but to partake. I could be exaggerating but it felt like it took us 45 minutes to find a place to sit and get our food. The mall staff worked efficiently and despite the crowds that bumped and pushed you no matter where you sat or stood, it was a clean place to eat, so not unbearably torturous. We ate from an Egyptian place called Shakra 2 Go. The food was absolutely delicious. We ordered 2 macarona bechamels, 2 sides of rice, chicken, vegatables, bread, and drinks call “Laimoon” which are cold and foamy made of lime and sugar and don’t quite taste like lemonade but are great when made properly. Everything cost about 130 LE, or under $8 USD.
Beano’s cafe is also in Mall of Egypt and we went there for coffee afterwards. The mediocre coffee and stale cake cost as much as our meal at Shakra 2 Go. The place however was nice, the service was good, and it wasn’t too crowded, no doubt, due to the prices.
Finally, we went to Carrefour. It was crowded beyond belief and we should have left when we couldn’t find a shopping cart but I just knew there was syrup inside. I ignored the warning signs and dragged my husband all over the mall and out to the parking garage to find a cart. That took about a half an hour and no Carrefour employee could tell us where to find the carts. Another warning sign. When we finally we found a lone one all the way at the back of the garage we sped walk to grab it. I kept imagining that someone would appear out of nowhere and swoop it away at the last minute. At best, it was good cardio and good for a laugh.
The moment we got back into Carrefour with the cart we knew we’d made a mistake. The store was very dirty and a complete disaster. Staff had begun to pick up messes and left brooms and dustpans abandoned on the sides of aisles. There were food spills that no one seemed to see and the cashiers worked at a pace that if you’ve observed them alone, you would think they couldn’t see the lines of people that backed up to the aisles. The store reminded me of a worse version of the 30 year old grocery stores in New York City that my mother used to yell at my father for shopping in. They were the kinds of stores that had trash scattered about and smelled like wet mops in the produce section. They’d make you wonder if your groceries were even clean. I will never go back again.
As for the rest of the Mall of Egypt, I will go back. I can’t wait to try Ski Egypt, which is indoor skiing and winter activities. It’ll be a welcome relief in summer. The mall is also supposed to feature an outdoor dining area that may or may not be open already now; I’m not sure. The one thing I wish was more like Mall of Arabia are the hours. Today, for example, Mall of Egypt closes at 10 pm vs Mall of Arabia which stays open much later until 12 am.
Overall, it’s great to see Egypt to continue to build up, adding even more places to go and things to do. I look forward to continuing to enjoy this country and even after I move back home, God willing, it’ll be my number one place to visit.