First rule of Nasr City is: the traffic is crazy. Second rule of Nasr City is: the traffic is crazy. There is a reason for the extreme congestion in Cairo’s largest district, and it is The Mall. Originally conceived as a suburb of Heliopolis, Nasr City has swelled exponentially due to the return of an entire generation of expatriate Egyptians from decades of working in the Gulf. All this newfound money funded the high-rise apartment blocks, and then informed the explosion of retail outlets over the past decade.
First and foremost is City Stars; the largest mall in Egypt, and if the advertising is to be believed, the Middle East (let’s assume that Dubai doesn’t count as part of the Middle East). Boasting hundreds of stores, restaurants, over twenty cinema screens, five levels of underground parking and the only Virgin Megastore in Egypt; it is the answer to the question first posed in the Jungle Book: What do you want to do?
Yet the bacchanalian orgy of consumerism does not stop there. Genaina Mall on Batrawy Street also boasts more of the same, nixing Virgin Megastore for an ice-skating rink. Serag Mall at the end of Makram Ebeid Street also has cinema theatres, but also boasts a labyrinthine layout and a wealth of second-hand mobile stores and shopping options plying synthetic and Chinese manufactured clothing for the spiritually and fashionably veiled. Anchoring Makram Ebeid at its other end, and five minutes walking distance from City Stars is the City Centre Mall. Four cinema screens and more mid-range clothing options are also on offer, next to the only Starbucks in Nasr City that’s not located in City Stars.
Oh, you thought we were finished! Abbas El Akkad is not to be outdone, and right after the International Park, there sits the Wonderland Mall, famous for its Renaissance Cinemas and attached theme park. And right at the intersection of Abbas El Akkad with Nasr Street, there is the Akkad Mall, where commerce has apparently gone to die. When it does die, look no further than Tiba Mall; once a shining beacon of activity in its heyday fifteen years ago, it is now deserted, awaiting reincarnation as an outlet mall sometime in 2011.
In addition to the aforementioned International Park, Nasr City also touts a second large expanse of greenery on Makram Ebeid: The Children’s Park. Across the street from the park is the Middle East Headquarters of the World Health Organisation, the Red Crescent Society and the Arab Open University. At sunrise and sunset, you can see joggers of all ages and physical types running around the park, a welcome and unexpected sight in a district that relies heavily on the automobile.
Yet Nasr City excels at providing some quality street food, an oxymoron though that may be. Abo Ramy at the end of Tayaran Street began as a modest cart selling liver sandwiches, and it has since grown into a two-story restaurant serving everything from shrimp sandwiches to sugared fiteer. The owners are also the people behind Limozen, arguably Cairo’s most progressive ahwa baladi, and serving up free Wi-Fi, good shisha and satisfying café food in a testosterone-drenched atmosphere. Al Ouda restaurant off of Mustafa El Nahas prepares some seriously delicious Palestinian foul and taameya, and is worthy of making a special trip to Nasr City; the other districts cannot even compare.
Upscale outings do exist: the casino and restaurants at the Sonesta Hotel on Tayaran Street provide some high-rolling entertainment, while the Intercontinental Hotel at City Stars bring an element of refinement for those so inclined.