Egypt celebrates Eid on a budget

Nesma Nowar, Ahram Weekly, Friday 2 Sep 2011

The economy may be stumbling and families loath to spend their limited funds, but Egyptians are making compromises to keep alive the time-worn activities of clothes and cake-buying

Eid in Egypt
Children buy balloons during Eid celebrations (Photo: Reuters)

"Who said there is a revolution?" exclaimed a salesman at one of Cairo's City Stars shopping mall astonished by the numbers streaming into the mall.

But as saleswoman Sara Mohamed explained, the shoppers are taking advantage of the special offers and discounts made by shops. She added that the promotional offers made by most shops have reached 50 per cent which has encouraged buyers.

But the discounts may be attractive for those who are better off and who can afford to do their shopping at malls, while others are having a more difficult time.

"I am not sure what I am going to do this year about buying new outfits for my kids because my budget is very tight," says Adel Sami, a 45-year-old government employee.

Sami explained that he likes to buy his kids new Eid outfits to please them; however, he would buy less expensive clothes this year.

Buying new outfits and kahk (especially made pastry for Eid), are two major characteristics that mark Eid Al-Fitr. Each year, Sami used to buy kahk and new outfits to complete the festivities for his children, but this year his budget would not bear buying both. "I think the clothes will be more useful to the kids especially with kahk becoming unaffordable," Sami said.

In fact, this year's soaring food prices have affected the prices of kahk. The rise in the price of flour, sugar and other ingredients has meant a more expensive kahk and other traditional sweets.

One employee at one of Cairo's bakeries said that the price of one kilogramme of kahk this year has witnessed a price hike that ranges around 30 per cent compared to last year leading to a weaker demand. "At that point of time, each year, we had a great demand." This has meant, he said, that demand and sales have declined. "One kilo of kahk is sold at prices starting from LE45. Last year, the same type of kahk would have been sold for LE30."

The employee added that price hikes are not the only factor affecting demand for the traditional holiday pastries, but also the fact that the feast coincides with the beginning of school. "Families are focussing on school expenses which they consider a priority."

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