Customers choose clothes at a local clothes market in Cairo,Egypt on Sept. 5, 2016.(Xinhua Photo)
CAIRO, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Wekalet al-Balah, a local marketplace in Egypt's capital Cairo, is arguably the favorite destination for millions of middle-class and poor Egyptians who seek cheap secondhand clothing.
However, the market, which used to attract people all around the country because of the cheap prices, is no longer a good choice for a number of them, since the recent price hikes have overwhelmed the North African poverty-stricken country.
Um Abdul Rahman, a mother of two from Cairo, was busy looking for clothes here for her kids as the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday will start next week.
She found a pair of nice grey sweat pants, but they were much more expensive than she expected.
The woman did not give up, and went on searching among piles of used clothes at the store.
But after a long and wearisome effort, she finally decided not to buy anything as none is affordable for her.
"Clothes here are really good and were very cheap," the mother said, checking a yellow and green T-shirt at one of the stores selling used clothes. "But the prices have recently gone up crazily."
The 30-something woman said she used to buy a secondhand shirt for 20 Egyptian pounds (about 2.3 U.S. dollars), but the "same shirt is sold for 30 or 35 pounds now."
She revealed that her husband is an ordinary construction worker who cannot afford new clothes for their children, even when major festivals arrive.
"This was the best place when we want to buy clothes," she said. "But things are not cheap anymore."
Um Abdul Rahman said she never bought new clothes after marriage, and flea markets across Cairo are where her family usually gets clothes.
"Malls and new clothes stores are not for poor people like us," she said peacefully.
Egypt's economy has been struggling in the past five years due to political instability resulting from two uprisings that toppled two heads of state.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has been suffering from dwindling foreign currency reserves, which decreased from 36 billion dollars in early 2011 to 17.5 billion dollars at the end of May 2016, and an unprecedented devaluation of its own currency.
The CBE has put the official value of the pound steady at 8.78 to the dollar in the official market to bridge the gap between official and black market rates.
However, prices at the parallel market kept skyrocketing and the exchange rate of the dollar has recently exceeded 13 pounds in the black market, for the first time in Egypt's modern history.
Sitting on a shabby wooden chair and smoking a shisha pipe in front of his old store, Lamlom Musallam said the market has witnessed an unprecedented recession in recent months because of the high prices, attributing this to the U.S. dollar hike against the Egyptian pound.
"Everything at this market is imported and we have to pay in dollars," the old man said as clouds of white smoke went out of his nose and mouth.
The 75-year-old said he is one of the first sellers at the market, and the secondhand clothing business was always brisk until the dollar crisis.
"Our business was great because the country is full of poor people who come to buy used garments," he said. "But I sell less than 20 percent of what I used to sell."
Musallam said this market was a refuge for those who cannot afford new clothes, "but it is no longer the right place for the poor after the recent price hikes."