A new government desperate to break with the administrative chaos that followed Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow says it will enforce a national ban on late-night shopping next week and restore order to streets that have come to resemble vast open-air bazaars.
If the ban is enforced, it could cut an unsustainable state energy bill by shifting more human activity to daylight hours and shortening opening hours for power-hungry shops and stalls.
Some Cairo store workers welcome the prospect of a shorter working day. Some shop owners agree, but others say the ban makes no sense because most Egyptians want to shop late into the night.
“It is an appalling decision,” said 28-year-old Mina Sabry, who sells women’s clothes in a central Cairo mall. “How can we close the shops from 10 p.m. when real work starts from seven?”
“Workers at the shops are happy with the decision because we will be able to leave early,” said Ibrahim Eid, an employee at a shoe shop. “Now we go home very late and transport is scarce.”
Shortly before 10 p.m. in Cairo’s working-class neighborhood of Shubra this week, streets were packed with shoppers bargaining with vendors.
As other North African cities go quiet after 10 p.m., much of Cairo comes to life with the din of car horns, the cries of street hawkers and music blaring from Nile pleasure boats.
Across Africa’s biggest city, buzzing air conditioners cool shoppers and bright lights beam onto rows of mannequins wrapped in children’s clothes, women’s headscarves or gaudy underwear.
Families stay out late and babies can often be seen slumped asleep on the shoulders of window-shopping parents.