When in doubt about what to do on a weekend afternoon in Cairo, the rule seems to be: head to the mall. Hordes of shoppers pack every aisle in shopping centres all over the city in the hope of snapping up a bargain, and with the summer sun, more and more of us will be lured into these giant buildings in order to escape the heat on the high street.
Genena Mall sits in a suburban hinterland of Nasr City, from the outside it doesn't look like much and once inside it's clear that this mall is a long way from the bright lights of some of Cairo's other more sparkly shopping centres. A wide Dalydress shop swoops round either side of the ground floor entrance with separate men's wear, women's wear and accessories' stores all featuring well pieced window displays and on trend styles – Genena shopping mall was off to a good start.
However, the centre peaks too early, as all of the brand name shops are on the ground floor, meaning there's little to keep you going further than the first floor. There's a sleek Charles & Keith for women's accessories and men can shop in the smart-casual wear shop, Concrete. For sports fans, Genena holds both a Nike and an Adidas shop full of international football strips. The shopping centre is not very large, but a good bit of floor space was given over to these shops which were by far the busiest. Coffee Shop Company takes up a central area of the floor, and a huge McDonalds spans nearly the entire length of one side.
On the top floor is the mall's food court which includes several shisha cafés, plus a range of recognisable eateries such as Asian Corner, Cook Door, Tandoori and Spectra, the latter of which is an unusually swanky sit down affair with a moodily lit restaurant behind dark wood doors. There is also a fairly extensive amusement area which contains rides and games for children and adults, however it's all a bit dated and rusty looking.
The mall covers five floors, including one below ground level, but after a while walking around it becomes a bit of a rabbit warren and the lack of open space or windows in the alleys of shops can get a tad claustrophobic. All of these shops are indistinguishable from any others found on any street in any part of Cairo, and are all equally indistinguishable from each other. There are shoe shops at every turn, but only Clarks is a recognisable name, and only Miss Sara stands out as having any fashion worthy stock for women.
Contemporary-looking clothes shops for young people are plentiful and each has its own over-the-top window displays and frontage. Our favourite was Motor, which boasts saddlery equipment on its walls as though it were a ranch in an old Western flick; true to Texan style, it was highly concerned with denim and checked shirts. Bella Donna is a pretty shop for women with some thought put into its elegant look. There are a few children's clothes shops which looked quirky and interesting such as Eleven and Blanche, which are both reasonably priced. We also found plenty of generic stores selling watches, sunglasses, and lingerie, all at low prices.
Luckily for Genena, these days the appeal of the Cairo mall has evolved from just a shopping experience and every mall must vie to stand out from the crowd: Mall of Arabia has dancing fountains, Sun City Mall has cinemas, and Citystars has, well, everything. Not to be left behind, Genena Mall has an ice rink. Situated on its ground floor, shoppers can pay 20LE for 15 minutes, or 60LE for a whole hour. We would have had a go, except all the children were making it look far too easy and we didn't fancy joining the pile of uncoordinated adults slumped around the edges. Although signs point to a multi-screen cinema, the space is now empty and all that is left is a creepy dark and sandy building site taking up half of the middle floor. There is however the beauty salon, Waves, which offers hair care, make-up , skin treatments and special services for brides.
In the nick of time, Genena Mall seems to have cottoned on to the fact that they have become outdated and are being left behind by Cairo's other malls. In 2014, they plan on extending the centre by adding a hotel in addition to an outdoor entertainment centre and restaurant square. In the following years they are planning a new venture in New Cairo. If Genena can move fast it might just be in time to revamp its look, and regain the attention of Cairo's shopaholics, but for the time being it's a bit of a drag.