The Food Court

Every indoor shopping mall has one, and the bigger malls have more than one. But the food court at the Cairo Festival City Mall is different from anything I have seen in Canada.

Not in terms of the restaurants, which are basically the same wherever you go. Yes, there are some Middle Eastern chains I didn’t recognize, but there were the familiar North American ones also. McDonald’s, Eggspectations Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, IHOP, TGI Friday’s – you get the idea.

It was the outdoor space that surprised me. Though it shouldn’t have. It was the dead of winter when I was there, which meant the air temperature was 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit). Quite pleasant for dining outdoors.

With all those North American foods on offer, I had a traditional Turkish breakfast from what I think is a local chain. I’m not opposed to a taste of home when traveling, but it wasn’t what I was looking for on that particular morning.

(The mall itself is huge, bigger than anything in Ottawa, but once again filled with a lot of familiar stores. We were only there to eat; I didn’t actually go into any of the stores to check prices. I guess I am a a failure as a shopper.)

The mall is definitely aimed at an upper class clientele, the building designed in many ways to be little America. Like it or not, this is what so many people aspire to. America (and its consumer culture) has become a worldwide dream. And sometimes a worldwide nightmare.

I wonder if the average Egyptian realizes that the opulence and consumerism on display in this mall is not all of what America is. Most Egyptians could probably never afford to shop here. That would be true of many Americans also, but that is the part of America that the rest of the world never sees.

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