Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Letters from Egypt: High Price to Pay

Graffiti post-revolution in Maadi
Dear Interim Egyptian Government,

I know that you are busy getting prepared for elections and making an effort to boost Egypt’s economy, but I would like to offer my expertise on how to revive your economy.

And thus, when you see one foreigner, you believe that you should charge triple the normal rate in order to make up for all the lost business as a result of the revolution. However, perhaps just charging the actual amount or even giving a discount because you have business in the first place would be a great way to rebuilding your economic status.

I admire the way you have begun advertising in other markets. I was particularly excited to see an advertisement on a local Shanghai television station that promoted Egypt’s tourism industry. What I am not excited about is seeing the three times plus airfare that is running rampant just to get into this country. Pre-revolution, direct flights to JFK Airport (NYC) from Cairo International Airport (CAI) cost around $650 roundtrip.

Check out these top-notch deals (sarcasm):
CAI to JFK around October 24, 2011-November 7
Multiple Stops – Economy Class
One Stop – Economy Class
Air France
One Stop – Economy Class
Turkish Air
One Stop – Economy Class

A friend of mine is looking for the opposite roundtrip originating in the US (JFK). She found a roundtrip ticket for $1,170 via Aeroflot with an EIGHT HOUR LAYOVER in…wait for it…wait for it…MOSCOW! Really??? In addition to these increased air fares, hotels and resorts have doubled prices as well (Fairmont and Grand Hyatt).

Whether many of you would like to admit it or not, foreign investment has been a major staple in Egypt’s economy for awhile. It stems from not only the tourism industry, but also the expatriates that reside in the country spending ample funds generating revenue for many local business owners. However, with the country’s stability hanging in the air, many businesses have relocated and/or closed their branches in Egypt altogether.

So for those of you begging for foreigners to leave, how about you talk to some of your local business owners and get their thoughts? Owner of Pimp My Shirt in Maadi (Rd 263) said that prices for already printed shirts were previously LE 20 and now are LE 50. Custom shirts have increased from 90 LE to 120 LE per shirt (although for larger orders, deals can be made). He also told me at CSA’s Party in the Park that business had dropped at least 40% post-revolution.

If you do the conversion from Egyptian Pounds (LE) to US Dollars (USD), many of you might not think these prices sound outrageous and you’re right. However, you have to factor in the average salary in Egypt and the previous revenue that these businesses accrued. You cannot compare prices in the US for instance to Egyptian prices, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

So while some are calling for the departure of the expats residing in Egypt, think about the repercussions first. Ask your friends in tourism how they feel and don’t forget to go to your local shop (if it’s still in business) to get their thoughts. In Maadi alone, I’ve seen two clothing stores go under only to be replaced by larger franchises like Speedo and Converse.

I am neither for nor against the revolution, but as events continue to drag on, I find myself increasingly disgusted. And one final word, if you must do graffiti on the walls/buildings, can you at least make it somewhat pleasing to the eye? I’m getting really tired of seeing stick people or hearts with wings. The wall for Victoria College near the Grand Mall/Burger Joint is ridiculous and yet teens are constantly out asking for money to purchase MORE spray paint. You have to be kidding me. You’re getting money to draw stick people. STICK PEOPLE! And yet here’s to you for hoping that there’s a better future ahead…

Disclaimer: While I was looking just last week, I didn’t find these other deals as even Expedia was outrageous. However, here are a couple of deals I just found while looking up prices for this blog. Please note that I am uncertain if this is including tax as I didn’t continue the process. If other fees/taxes are added after this total, prices will double. (via AA)
One Stop – Economy Class
$719 (via Etihad and AA)
One Stop – Economy Class

 Here are some other lovely graffiti photos I am so lucky to see daily (S-A-R-C-A-S-M):

At first glance, I thought this was an armadillo. When taking this photo I realized it is, in fact, an anteater - which symbolizes the revolution how?

I find great meaning in this crow...

Your guess is as good as mine

I have absolutely no idea as to what this is either


  1. I now only shop for food. And even that is way more expensive than before. I went to one market that tried to charge me 10 LE for a bottle of water and I just walked out and headed to Metro even though it was out of the way. I have one American friend that has a shop and she is giving nice discounts and always has people in buying. Another Egyptian I know is now doing the same. They need to realize that they are not going to make up for lost wages, nor can they make the public bear the costs.

  2. Is there anyway you can list these shops that you mentioned? It would be a great help and I would personally like to check them out. I have cut back on spending exponentially myself, but I still find that while I've cut costs, with the increase in pricing, I'm still spending a ridiculous amount for basics (at least compared to pre-revolution).

    The owner of Pimp My Shirt said that he was unhappy about having to increase prices, but his costs for printing and getting plain shirts has hiked and he had to do it. This is understandable, but your story and so many similar about bottles of water are just absurd. I had the same problem at a kiosk across from the Grand Mall. They tried to charge me 10LE for a lighter!!! Said it was from France - can you believe it? Obviously I walked away and like you, walked farther out of my way to get the items I needed.

  3. I live in Sharm, which was always a shopping rip-off and nightmare, but it is so much worse these days. We get the Cairo prices inflated due to transport since nothing is made here. I can give you the names of the shops that I mentioned but they are here.

    However, if you come back for a holiday we should meet for a coffee.

  4. Yes, Sharm was already ridiculous with pricing so I shutter to think of it now.

    I don't get to Sharm that often (and one of the main reasons are the inflated prices), but I do get to Hurghada regularly as I have some good friends living there.

    Please let me know (email is probably best) if you're in Hurghada or if you venture down to Cairo, coffee would be great.