Feature: Egyptians flock to markets for Christmas, New Year's gifts

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-29 04:23:22|Editor: ZX
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by Ahmed Shafiq

CAIRO, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Gifts, trees and lights for the celebration of Christmas and the New Year are heavily decorating the storefronts in the Egyptian capital Cairo for hope of attracting customers and increasing sales.

Storekeepers in Cairo's popular Mosky market displayed their goods and gifts to use the occasion in a bid to compensate a sharp economic recession after years of turmoil and recession, following two popular uprisings that toppled two heads of state in 2011 and 2013.

Storefronts had been topped with gifts that focused on a variety of forms such as Santa Claus and his famous wagon as well as red hearts and toys that read "Happy New Year."

For business owners, the New Year occasion is a very important event that attracts customers to buy gifts and it may consequently help revive the weak trade movement.

The gifts that are mostly sold to customers are those related to the holiday season such as Santa Claus costumes and red hats as well as the sculptures used for congratulating the New Year.

"I have imported large amounts of Christmas-related goods from China. I'm selling well and customers are really buying," Yasser Saeed, a gift shop owner told Xinhua.

Saeed, who has been in the business for almost a decade, said the season could be much better, adding "it is still better than the previous few years, despite the price rise."

"The customer turnout is good, but not all of them are buying due to the high prices," the man added as he placed tiny Santa Claus toys on a shelf at his small store.

The middle-aged man hoped that the economic situation in Egypt would improve soon under the government's reform plan, which he believes would boost the country's economy.

Over the past few years, Egypt has been struggling to overcome an economic recession resulting from political turmoil and relevant security challenges, which led the country in late 2016 to start a strict three-year economic reform program.

The program includes austerity measures, energy subsidy cuts and tax increases, in addition to local currency floatation to contain U.S. dollar shortage.

Despite causing price hikes and high inflation rates, the liberalization of the Egyptian pound's exchange rate encouraged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support Egypt's reform plan by providing a 12-billion-U.S. dollar loan, two-thirds of which has already been delivered, while Egypt expects a tranche of two billion dollars from the loan within weeks.

A report released in early May by the Center for International Development at Harvard University ranked Egypt as the world's third fastest growing economy in the coming decade after India and Uganda.

Egypt achieved a high growth of 5.3 percent in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which runs from the beginning of July to the end of June.

"I cannot say the season is bad," street seller of toys and gifts Ahmed Hassan told Xinhua. "Despite the high prices of goods, people still buy because the Christmas and New Year events are widely celebrated in our country."

New Year and Christmas celebrations are well observed by most of the Egyptians, especially by Copts, who make up 90 percent of Christians in the country.

Coptic Egyptians mark the Christmas on Jan. 7, while a minority of non-orthodox Christian Egyptians see the holiday as on Dec. 25.

Egypt's Coptic Christians, the largest religious minority in the region, make up about 10 percent of the country's 100 million population.

"Buying New Year's gifts, especially for the kids, is kind of a must in Egypt. It is part of our culture," Sanaa Magdy, a Coptic Christian told Xinhua as she toured the market in search for gifts for her three children.

Magdy said the prices of New Year gifts have doubled since last year, but she said that the occasion cannot be a happy celebration without buying her kids Santa Claus gifts.

"The feast will be meaningless if the kids are happy. That is why I must buy them gifts even if they will cost me much," she said with smile.