POSTED BY CAMPBELL MACDIARMID
In a haze of dust and car exhaust, with the cacophonous soundtrack of traffic serenading us, I finally find what I’m looking for. A turquoise Navajo print shirt, straight out of the 90s, but looking none the worse for wear. It’s not your typical shopping experience, but if you’re sick of generic big brand clothing, and don’t mind putting in the hard yards, a trip to Cairo’s second hand clothes market in Boulaq might be for you. For those with an inclination towards unique items – and the stamina to hunt them out – hidden treasures await in the endless racks of clothes.
It’s hot exiting the Metro at Nasser. High noon might be a good time for a Wild West show down, but it’s not the best time to be pushing your way through crowds under the 26 July overpass. Coming in the early evening is a pro-tip for next time. But we fortify ourselves with juice and embark on our shopping mission with gusto. I am looking for interesting shirts, hoping to find a trendy denim one with domes, or perhaps a Hawaiian shirt that might strike that magical balance between kitsch and cool. My friend is looking for a bright summer dress, or maybe a cool headscarf.
With all the discipline of a military operation we start our search, ignoring the wolf whistles directed at my friend, quickly scanning the rows and flicking through rack after rack. You have enjoy the thrill of the chase. There’s lots of sifting through endless plain and tired stuff, looking for something that stands out – that elusive diamond in the rough.
It takes me an hour before I find my shirt. There are a few false alarms with cool shirts in the wrong size, or tops that are nearly, but not quite there, but finally I’ve got what I’m after. Barely checking to see if the it fits I hand over 15 guineas to secure my prize. By this stage we’re nearly at the Nile but haven’t even begun penetrating the heart of the beast – the alleys running off 26 July. We’re getting tired though and the allure of the relative calm of Zamalek is too much to resist. My friend hasn’t found what she’s looking for yet but we agree to come back next week. Back for another attack on the never-ending racks.