A woman holds a gift for Valentine's Day at a market in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 14, 2019. Storefronts were decorated with teddy bears, red hearts and roses in Egypt's capital Cairo on Thursday as the Egyptians marked Valentine's Day. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
by Ahmed Shafiq
CAIRO, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Storefronts were decorated with teddy bears, red hearts and roses in Egypt's capital Cairo on Thursday as the Egyptians marked Valentine's Day.
Owners of gift and flower shops across Cairo displayed the gifts with hopes to compensate a sharp economic recession after years of turmoil following two popular uprisings that toppled two heads of state in 2011 and 2013.
Despite the conservative traditions, the season for romance is widely observed in Egypt as lovers, friends and family members seize the festivity to express their love and happy feelings.
Unlike other western holidays, "Holiday of Love," as it is called in Arabic, has spread widely across Egypt, despite being viewed by many conservative people as a taboo.
The day of Cupid is also a good chance for businesses such as restaurants, theaters, cinemas, hotels as well as gift and flower shops.
Two weeks ago, Wagih Qaissar, manager of a gift and flower shop in downtown Cairo, started preparations for the holiday.
"I have displayed dozens of red gifts, teddy bears ... as well as flowers," the middle-aged man said.
Like most of his colleagues, Valentine's Day is a very important event that attracts customers to buy gifts which could help reverse the weak purchase trend, he added.
"We have ordered new items for the occasion ... I am really selling well and more customers approach the shop every day," Qaissar said.
Qaissar, who has been selling gifts for years, said the season is still unsatisfactory but better than last year.
"As a trader, I can tell the economy is currently going up," he said.
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 currency flotation to contain U.S. dollar shortage.
Despite the resultant price hikes and high inflation rates, the liberalization of the Egyptian pound's exchange rate motivated the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support Egypt's reform plan by providing a 12-billion-U.S. dollar loan.
At the front of Qaissar's shop, a young couple wearing red jackets were inspecting the gifts.
"For me, Valentine's Day is the best occasion to express my love to my fiance," Mohammed Sayyed, a taxi driver, told Xinhua.
The young man said he was going to buy a modest gift because he cannot afford an expensive one.
"If I was rich, I would buy her a very luxurious gift, but I'm happy that there are cheap and valuable presents everywhere," he added, holding a red box containing a women's watch.
His fiancee, Doaa, said buying a gift is a must on Valentine's Day regardless of its price.
"Valentine's Day cannot be a happy day without a gift ... My fiance is generous and he will buy my a good gift," she said, flashing a happy smiling.