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Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt.
Al Fanny: Hidden Treasure-Trove of Musical Supplies in Heliopolis
Tucked away on a side street near Saint Mary's Church, Al Fanny could easily be missed; but look for the inconspicuous Roland emblem above the building on Ebn Hagar El Askalany Street and hit the buzzer for "Roland 1" to get in.
This shop doesn't seem to be aimed at individual customers as much as music studios and organisers of events, putting its strange members-only, speak-easy feel into context. The walls are piled high with amps, making it more like a warehouse or wholesaler than an everyday instrument store.
You can find speakers, power amps and PA systems ranging from the basic to the incomprehensible; tap at old-school, cheap-and-cheerful Roland mics or futuristic Rodes that vary from around 600LE-3300LE – choose between studio, wireless or wired. Wander into the studio equipment section and you'll find a bewildering array of headphones (390LE-1350LE) and mixing desks, which will set you back at least 15000LE. However, no item is individually price-tagged, and for these larger items, particularly if you are buying several pieces, prices are negotiable.
The portion of the shop devoted to instruments is fairly small. We found the guitars to be poorly presented, with three or four LTD and ESP electrics priced between 1000LE-3500LE, and four, five and six string bass guitars ranged 1500LE-4000LE. Acoustic guitars varied from simple nylon-string starter jobs at 340LE, to elegant classical and steel string models (980LE-2000LE). However, the limited number of these is due to Al Fanny's contract with ESP – ask for an ESP catalogue and you can get any style imaginable via the store.
Guitar and bass amplifiers are in abundance, with models by Vox, Crate, Cube, Blackstar, Roland and Wharfedale. These vary in size from handheld to monstrous, and in price from 950LE for a Vox Microcube, to 7800LE for a handsome Roland GA-212. You can also find accessories including, but not limited to, Boss loop pedals, Roland drum triggers and a cupboard-full of effects pedals. There's only one drum-kit, a stylish electric Roland prohibitively priced at 22,000LE; however, more are available from the Al Fanny website.
Keyboards and electric pianos are the emphasis of this store, and although there are no cheap starter models, you can find anything from a simple but great-quality Roland E-09 (4250LE), to Korgs with all the extras (7000LE-10000LE), to imposingly beautiful and sweet-sounding Kurzweils (35000LE), and beyond.
If you really know your stuff, and are looking for something specific but elusive, or just have a bit of cash burning a hole in your pocket, this is the place to go. While their website offers a better range of instruments, a music-lover could easily lose himself in the myriad possibilities of this musicians' equivalent of Toys 'R' Us. However, if you're just starting out, or you prefer a bit of simplicity, you risk wading out of your depth by entering this store.