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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Virgin Megastore: Gadgets, Games and Goodies
Once upon a time, over five years ago, Virgin Megastore was the first flagship store to operate in City Stars. This was way back, even before Spinney’s and Casper & Gambini. Virgin megastores took root in virgin territory, and ever since then, the store has been the Nr.1 venue for all things multimedia.
The store is roughly divided up into six sectors: books, consumer electronics, audio CDs, DVDs, Gaming and toys. Even so, the title megastore conjures up images of a sprawling estate, packed to the rafters with all manners of products and a veritable black hole for your monthly salary. Sadly, the reality is that Virgin occupies a space almost the same size as Zara on the same floor, and both are way smaller than Spinney’s. An efficient male shopper can tackle a brisk swim through the aisles in less than five minutes.
However, Zara doesn’t have a great selection of humorous graphic Tees and Spinney’s doesn’t have the hardcover edition of Larousse Gastronomique; so what’s in a space? Virgin, it would seem, is perfect for targeted shopping; procuring Paulo Coelho’s latest mental flatulence, grabbing DVD box sets, picking up more iPod accessories– or indeed an iPod itself.
The books section is remarkably large, and in fact seems to be one of their best performing sectors. The cooking section alone is worth a weekly pilgrimage (to those who are so inclined) and they also have a healthy selection of self-help books with titles like How To Kick Your Addictions…NOW!, et cetera, et cetera. For the aurally inclined, there are CDs– after all, Virgin does have its own music label– ranging from Arabic pop down to ska and punk. Right next to the CD section is the Apple corner, where you can find the latest iPods and Mac books (no iPads yet, sadly) with their accessories.
Almost every item in the toys/tees section is exclusive to Virgin Megastores. Nerf guns, Simpsons t-shirts and other little trinkets will bring out the child in any greying man. A catty corner away, there is an entire wall dedicated to the addiction that is video gaming. This is the place to be if you want to pick up that new Warbeast guitar for your PS3 Guitar Hero. If there ever was a time to take ’two princes‘ literally, then that time would be now. Right behind the toys section is a field of DVDs, Arabic and English alike, as well as along the columns holding the store up. Say what you will about DVDs as a physical media; at least in Virgin Megastores, you will be spoilt for choice.
For a store that seeks to be the jack of all trades, one would worry that it would end up as the master of none. But not so with Virgin; in City Stars, unless you’re shopping for underwear, all roads lead to Virgin.
Known to almost all musicians in Egypt, Gawharet El Fan lies on Mohamed Aly Street – the epicentre of buying musical instrument for over 120 years.
While it has expanded to several branches, we chose to go to the original store, and we would recommend you do too, for several reasons; first, the storage, manufacturing and workshops that belong to the company are all there, so what you don’t find inside the store they can get from storage within minutes. Second, this is where you’ll find the biggest selection of percussive instruments, drums and their accessories anywhere in Egypt. Third and final, if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the store, you’re still in Mohamed Aly, so you can walk to the next shop and look there.
Mohamed Aly Street boasts the biggest instrument market in all of Egypt, and it’s where you’ll find the cheapest prices too, so don’t be afraid to haggle, especially if you’re buying large quantities
Gawharet El Fan boasts that it was the first store to sell more than one type of instrument and, for most part, you can indeed find almost any instrument you’re looking for. In the string family, you can find acoustic, electric and bass guitars, lutes, violins and cellos. Moving to percussive you can find keyboards, xylophones and many different types of drums be it Indian or African. You can find also find drum kits and cymbals, woodwind instruments and brass.
Additionally, you’ll also find sound equipment like speakers, amplifiers, mixers and microphones.
A Cort acoustic or semi-acoustic guitar costs 400LE-1000LE and even lower-grade brands like Fitness or Suzuki will set you backs 300LE-500LE, while electric guitars range between 1000LE and 2000LE. Mapex drum kits cost around 3600LE – not including cymbals – however Gawharet El Fan owns distributing rights to Sabian Cymbals; a much higher-end company with models like the SBR costing 1200 LE and B8 Pro models costing 2400 LE.
Violins, meanwhile, here come in all sizes with prices ranging 200LE-2000LE.
We found the weakest section to be the keyboard section which was made up of unknown Chinese brands with prices ranging 500LE-1000LE; they may not sound completely terrible, but there’s no guarantee on their life expectancy. Even the Yamaha pieces looked like lower grade models compared to the stock at the Yamaha dealership in Heliopolis.
You can call ahead and check if what you’re looking for is available before you go. The people who work at the store are very polite and will whole heartedly help you.
All in all, whether you end up buying your instrument from here or not, this is definitely the first stop you should make.