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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Clara: Cluttered but Cute
Zamalek’s streets are not only lined with trees, they are lined with numerous shops carrying artsy home accessories and great gift ideas. On Mansour Mohamed Street, Clara is one shop that shouldn’t be missed.
The tiny, crowded shop has a peculiar shape; it feels as though it was created out of the back rooms of several other shops on the street. Customers toting large purses might do well to hug their bags close as they manoeuvre between shelves and tables of home accessories.
Countless decorative dishes, serving trays, glass sets, vases and candle-holders are on display in Clara. While some of the shop’s products are local, much of the stock is imported from Brazil and Germany. Stand-outs among the merchandise are Brazilian made serving trays. At 150LE, the glass dishes come in several colourful and chic designs. A German-made Apero asymmetrical and bright-blue candy dish (200LE) is one of the many accessories in Clara with a lot of character. Oversized vases are well represented in Clara and range in material, design and price. A beautiful, deep, treated wood vase for 400LE caught our eye, as did a translucent apple-red glass vase.
Much of Clara’s stock is quite affordable, such as the high-quality glass dishes ranging between 100LE and 200LE and a number of candles at only 5LE apiece. Clara also has some bigger ticket items. A sage-green ceramic Apero tea set (1280LE) with an ultra-modern design was tucked in a cubby out of harm’s way.
Clara’s selection could use a bit of editing; as some of its products aren’t particularly memorable, such as flatware and Valentine’s-themed cork bottle stoppers. Unfortunately, these items are displayed more prominently than some of Clara’s more enticing offers. Additionally, the shop’s side room has much less aesthetic appeal than the rest of the shop. Items seem haphazardly displayed on the shelves and a large table in the centre makes it nearly impossible to examine all of Clara’s items up close. However, the room has a number of great finds; so be sure to at least give it a quick check.
Gift Carnival has a variety of wrappers, bows, ribbons and such to make gifts as festive as possible and prices range according to size and amount of supplies used. . While they had a lot of plain balloons, the occasion-specific ones were out of stock, although you can also grab some helium balloons (8LE each). Gift bags are also available in surplus, with prices ranging about 10LE. Celebratory cards (12LE) are offered in great variety, many of which were simple and appealing, without being too tacky or fussy.
Apart from gift accessories, you may also find the gift itself while roaming the shop. A definite highlight, and one of the nicest items we’ve seen around, were porcelain travel mugs (100LE) in a range of vibrant colours and patterns.
The shop also carries lightweight storage pieces - essentially a straw chest of drawers - at a very steep price of 790LE; single baskets are also available, most useful for storing small items and knickknacks. Interestingly, the Gift Carnival had quite the selection of scarves claiming to be Burberry and Gucci, at 100LE to 150LE.
Other household items include candles; a large one was discounted from 260LE to 130LE, while scented candles come at a much more reasonable price between 20LE and 40LE. Gift Carnival also has a range of kitchen utensils such as egg whiskers, cheese graters, cheese knives and vegetable peelers – all around 20LE each.
If you’re looking to decorate your Christmas tree, the shop also has a bunch of tree ornaments available. Though not very exciting or unique, a box of large round ornaments, with two per packet, costs 25LE.
The knickknacks are endless at Gift Carnival. Louis Vuitton inspired lighters, refrigerator magnets, decorative boxes, pillows, stuffed animals, there appears to be no restricted theme.
If you’re looking to wrap a gift or buy a helium balloon than Gift Carnival is likely a good stop.