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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Off to Carrefour in Maadi

I needed some food items and a refill on my phone minutes today so I headed out to Carrefour. Carrefour is actually the anchor store at the City Centre Mall in Maadi about ten miles to the East of us right down the Ring Road. If traffic isn't too bad, it's an easy taxi ride since the Ring Road has four marked lanes in each direction and is posted at 90 kilometers/hr or about 54mph. Well that's 54mph for cars - it decreases for other types of vehicles - down to 36 for tandem trailers.

My taxi driver was pretty good. He weaved left and right and soon had the little Fiat well above the posted speed. These taxis don't have much horsepower so drivers hate to slow down and have to build momentum again. One young man dashed across the road in front of us as the driver waved, indicating he was going to the right of the runner. (See this article in the Daily News about "dozens of college students" dying on the ring each year)

I was glad I had a skilled driver as we descended a long hill on the East side of the Nile. A truck in front of us lost his drive shaft and it came tumbling back in the lane to our left. The truck kept going and made another half mile before beginning to brake. I don't envy the driver going back to pick up parts in the far left lane. No language barrier here. My driver pointed to his head obviously speaking the Arabic for "crazy." We laughed, honked at the truck and moved past.

City Centre Mall is a complex of about eighty shops and restaurants. The Carrefour hypermarket probably takes about half of the mall area. Carrefour is definitely the destination store and people refer to the trip as "going to Carrefour."

I wouldn't know it was the City Centre except that I did pick up a brochure with the name on it. They have parking for two thousand cars and on Friday evenings, every spot is filled and then some.

As you look from the parking ramp in the opposite direction you see some of the suburban housing development that is part of Egypt's on-again, off-again plan to move some of the masses from central Cairo to the surrounding desert.

The mall itself contains clothing shops that range from modest fully-covering veils to whatever it might be that is sold in Womens Secret.

You may not have heard of Carrefour. They are a French based chain of hypermarkets and the second largest retail chain in the world after WalMart. We were quite impressed with this store on our first visit but I would have to give the edge to Spinneys after visiting both stores. But you have to give Carrefour credit for having read Sam Walton's book.

We walked in on a Friday night with thousands of people in the store. There was a pile of microwave ovens on special. Six feet tall, ten feet wide and maybe fifty feet long. People were taking them away as fast as the guys in yellow shirts could replace them off pallets. It was bedlam! And yes, we have one in our kitchen! These guys can merchandise a store.

The restaurants and fast food shops are from the list of Usual Suspects.

With my shopping all done, I headed outside and found a taxi to take me home. By now it was rush hour and traffic was slow all along the Ring. Where it was backed up and barely moving, those four marked lanes now held seven lines of vehicles. You can see the situation in the left picture. There are five lanes to our right. Click to enlarge and then count them! We are in the sixth. You'll just have to believe me that there is one more on our left. I'll bet you wouldn't try to squeeze by that army truck like the dark pickup is doing. He had no trouble. And you probably wouldn't try to squeeze by that light pole like the light green truck is doing in the right picture.

People are sometimes surprised that I don't want to drive in Cairo. Do you? On the other hand, every time I am stuck in traffic at home now, I wonder why Americans are so timid. Two marked lanes? Two columns of cars. Surely a lot more could squeeze by on the shoulders. Come on, folks, get some imagination!


Kailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kailey said...

yaHi Tom,
I just wanted to tell you that I read your blog a few months ago because I am from Canada and have now moved to Maadi. It was so interesting and helped me know what to expect (sort of because it is so hard to describe Egypt)!
Although I am still adjusting to Maadi I am rereading your blog because now I actually get it!
I am writing a blog about my time here as well!

Unknown said...

just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.

city said...

nice idea.. thanks for posting.