Lights and joy all around: It's Christmas time in Shubra

Zeinab El-Gundy , Friday 31 Dec 2021

You know it's that time of the year when you see all those lights hanging throughout Shubra's main commercial streets, on the buildings, and across shop windows. It's Christmas time.

Santa in Shubra
Santa figures for sale standing at San Ibram shop for Christmas decorations in Cairo, Egypt Photo: Zeinab El-Gundy)

The famous middle-class Shubra district in north Cairo is home to the largest concentration of Christians of all neighourhoods in the capital.

Christmas in Shubra - like other parts of the country - is celebrated twice. The Coptic Orthodox community, which makes up 90 percent of Egypt's Christian population, celebrates Christmas on 7 January, according to the Julian Calendar. Smaller Christian denominations in Egypt - Catholics, Coptic Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals -  celebrate Christmas on 25 December, according to the Gregorian Calendar.

Colourful lights, religious icons, and ornaments that exude the Christmas spirit stay alive on Shubra's streets for several weeks before and after the holidays. 

One finds the highlight of the Christmas celebrations on Shubra's main streets takes place on the famous Teraa Al-Bolakiya Street, where three gigantic Christmas trees stand, including the biggest Christmas tree in the whole district. 

The tallest Christmas tree of the three was gifted to the constituency of Shubra from MP Ehab El-Tamawy, a leading member of the Mostaqbal Watan Party and Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives.

This gigantic Christmas tree and its two sisters - who tower on the opposite side of the street - were designed and made by Amir Ghattas, the owner of the largest two Christmas decoration shops on the Teraa Al-Bolakia Street: San Abram bookstore and shop.

San Abram for Priesthood Clothes traditionally sells Coptic Orthodox priesthood attires but gained wider fame for its Christmas decorations merchandise.

Ahram Online missed Mr Ghattas when this writer visited his store, but found the staff on duty extremely busy with customers buying all sorts of Christmas decorations for prices cheaper than in other areas in Cairo.

In addition to the San Abram store, there are dozens of small shops throughout the long commercial streets of the district selling Christmas decorations also at competitive prices.

Locally-made short and medium-size Christmas trees range in price from EGP 100 to EGP 300. The same goes for locally-made Christmas wreaths.

One of the shopkeepers explained to Ahram Online that local workshops start making Christmas trees and wreaths every year immediately after the end of celebrations of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas on 7 January.

Some Christmas ornaments - imported from China in recent years - are sold at prices between EGP 15 to EGP 50, depending on the size and shape.

Santa Claus, the undisputed hero of Christmas who is referred to in Arabic as Papa Noel, has his own line of products, from small plush dolls to mugs to small and large figurines - sold at prices ranging from EGP 20 to EGP 350.

Customers from all ages and backgrounds, from Christian nuns to Muslim moms, buy affordable Christmas decorations and Santa Claus paraphenalia.

Shubra's Christmas trees attract people of all ages. They are used as a favourite background for the pictures taken of children, youth, and adults. 

It is not only Shubra that dresses up for Christmas but all areas in Egypt and the Greater Cairo area also mark the festivities. 

The Heliopolis district in east Cairo, home to a large number of Christians, keeps the tradition of lighting one of Egypt’s biggest Christmas trees on Korba Street in a collaborative effort with the private sector.

In the upscale suburbs of Sheikh Zayed district - west of the capital - and New Cairo - east of the capital - malls and residential compounds also strive to display the most spectacular Christmas trees and decorations.

Short link: