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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
Volume 1: Get Crafty
This venue is primarily recognized as a book store, but the arts and crafts, stationary and gift section certainly makes a name for itself. The best part of the upper level bookstore is the magazine and newspaper section, where nearly every regional English and Arabic publication can be found. There is also an ample travel section where you can pick up guides for visiting Europe, Asia, or destinations closer to home. The graphic novel section is a bit shabby, housing mostly paperbacks Archie comics from the early nineties. Also available is a nice assortment of gift-appropriate coffee table books, and a children’s section for toddlers to grade-schoolers.
Downstairs you can find everything from paints, pastels, glue sticks and glitter to rolls of wrapping paper and bits and bobs to keep those art projects interesting. Shopping for gift cards? Need to add a bit of pizzazz to that last minute birthday card? Volume 1 is the go-to place for tinseling things up.
Also a place for professionals, Volume 1 sells calendar diaries, planners and address books in more varieties than you may know what to do with. Try the gift wrapping section as it has everything from silk bags to creative gift labels.
Old-school stationary shops in Cairo are becoming more and more rare, thanks in part to the spread of bookshop chains across the city that conveniently provide similar, if not the exact same, products. However, Imprint in Zamalek plays the role of stationary shop, print shop and even gift shop. Offering products that can be customised to any personal taste, anyone who gets a special kick out of stationary – and there are plenty of us – should definitely stop by.
The decor of the venue relies on black and white paint to contrast the very colourful products. The store’s facade features prints of pop culture figures like Marilyn Monroe, while the inside of the shop’s walls features paintings of Ghandi, Elvis and Dali among other historical and popular figures.
‘We Print Your Dreams’ is written out on a blackboard inside – it’s a little bit of an overblown statement, but Imprint offers more than stationary when it comes to customisation; mugs, t shirts and other random items can printed with a picture or photo of your choice. They also offer a service of turning your own photos into pop art.
Regardless of whether you provide the photograph or not, the prices are unified. A 20x20 size poster, for example, costs 125LE while the larger 50x35 size costs 300LE. Some of the sample posters are displayed and the results look immaculate – we were particularly taken by a poster of the Beatles.
Away from customisation, the collection of ready-to-sell products is large and includes a diverse set of designs. Many focus on band logos like the Rolling Stones, for example, but other generic designs are used on notebooks that come in three sizes;the large and medium cost 30LE and 20LE respectively, while the smaller notebook with a hard cover costs 35LE.
We also found a collection of pencil cases costing 50LE and two types of coasters, the wooden costs 10LE while the acrylic costs 15LE. Across from the counter we also found simple folders and binders costing 11LE.
Imprint is a well stocked shop but suffers from one of the most excruciating problems that arise when shopping in Cairo; many of the items aren’t marked with prices. To make matters worse during our visit was that the staff seemed to be almost reluctant to tell us the prices of some of the items without us committing to purchasing it. It’s a shame, because it made the whole visit a little awkward and we don’t think wanting to know the price of an item before buying it is too much of an ask.