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The land of Ikea

Ikea is a nice place, but might not be the place for serious purchases

Ikea Egypt carries the famous chairs that can be found in many homes around the world (Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)
Ikea Egypt carries the famous chairs that can be found in many homes around the world
(Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

The hype surrounding Ikea has been building since it was announced in 2010 that the Swedish chain was planning to open a store in Cairo. It took three years of growing anticipation, and now the Fifth Settlement is home to the huge furniture store. For city dwellers, it might be a bit of a distance to the land of Ikea, also known as Festival City, but all you have to do is pick a day when there is not much traffic so you do not end up hating your existence. However, is it worth it to follow the not-so-yellow sixth of October Bridge to go there?

Well, the answer is complicated. First off, the store is huge, and by that we mean it seems justifiable to call it a mall rather than a store. Even though it is only two stories, it reportedly stretches over 34,500 square metres, and might just be the biggest Ikea store in the Middle East. You cannot really imagine the size of it until you see it.

After you park your car in the huge parking lot, which is free by the way, you can go right ahead and enter the yellow and blue furniture kingdom. On arrival, you cannot help but notice the number of employees and workers; everywhere you go there is a person dressed in yellow who you can ask for help. The employees are all very knowledgeable and helpful.

So as not to get lost within the many sections which often overlap, they provide you with a shopping list that doubles as a map of the store. The shopping list is provided for writing down all the items you want so that afterwards, you can fetch it from the storage area. Each showcased piece of furniture has a tag indicating the furniture’s number and location in the storage area by section letter and isle number. This might not seem very exciting, but with the shopping list comes a tiny pencil, which you can slip into your bag later as a souvenir. I bet they restock these tiny pencils every day because they are so cute very few people will resist taking them home.

The ground floor houses all of the things that are small and can be bought without any need for lugging and hauling. There you will find kitchen accessories, home decorations, lighting fixtures and the like. You also will find the candles section, which is quite diverse when it comes to candle scents and has all sizes of candles, from large ones to the small round tea lights that fit into lanterns. You can find a nice looking lantern starting from around EGP 30 and upwards. As for the candles, you can purchase a set of four candlesticks for about EGP 15, and 24 of the small round ones for about EGP 45. The price, of course, varies according to the size, shape and scent of the candles. The unscented ones are much cheaper. However, given the high prices of candles in stores around Cairo, Ikea might generally be a cheaper option.

Also on the ground floor are the dining room accessories such as dishes, cups and bowls. There are dining sets as well as items that are sold separately. A soup bowl can cost you about EGP 17 and an espresso cup and saucer about EGP 19. If compared to fancy supermarkets, Ikea’s prices are cheaper; however, if you go downtown and visit the local stores or marketplaces, you might find something for even less. Of course, it also depends on the design. The aforementioned items were plain and made of pottery or porcelain, so if you opt for something patterned, the price will probably double.

On the first floor, you will find everything that is bulky, such as chairs, kitchens, sofas, beds, etc. Everything is arranged to seem as though it were somebody’s living room or kitchen. You are welcome to try anything you want by sitting, lying or even stretching on the furniture.

Ikea offers the service of tailoring a kitchen to your apartment or home. This can be done by scheduling an appointment paying a deposit of EGP 1,500; they will then send a couple of people to come measure the kitchen. Once the kitchen is completed, they ship and install it for you free of charge (given that the purchase exceeds EGP 10,000). Prices for kitchens start at around EGP 26,000 and up, but it also depends on the size of the kitchen. However, the prices do not include appliances, sinks, faucets and the like.

The planning option is only available for kitchens, so for living rooms, you are on your own. You can find a lightweight rocking chair starting from EGP 950, a fabric sofa starting from EGP 1,195 and a sofa-bed starting from EGP 1,595. These prices are all for basic designs; as the furniture models get more intricate the prices go up. You also have to keep in mind that you have to assemble things yourself. So, maybe buying an EGP 11,000 sofa from Ikea does not make sense when you can purchase the same type from another store, fully assembled and with the option that it may be delivered to your house.

In conclusion, Ikea might seem like the place to go for a fun outing during which you can try a Swedish meatball or get a salad spinner for EGP 30. However, when it comes to serious purchases, you might want to consider other local options before you make up your mind. When considering huge pieces of furniture, it makes sense to ask about the materials, durability and additional features included in the price. That being said, it does seem like a good idea to visit the gigantic store at least once so as to witness the grandeur of it firsthand.

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