Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1150, 29 May - 5 June 2013
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1150, 29 May - 5 June 2013

Ahram Weekly

The army vs the Brotherhood

Egypt’s shoppers often have to choose between army-run and Brotherhood-owned supermarket chains

Al-Ahram Weekly

Dina Ezzatlooks at the diverse challenges of putting food on the table, from the point of view of the consumer as well as the producer

The army or the Muslim Brotherhood question is as much about food as it is about politics. “I much prefer to shop at supermarkets run by the Armed Forces, as I trust the quality of the food I buy and I know I am getting good value for money,” said Amany, a housewife in her early 40s.

On one Friday afternoon, at one of the supermarkets run by the Public Services Department of the Armed Forces as part of a wider civilian contribution by the army, Amany was stocking up on her monthly buy of meat, chicken and fish. She was also adding packs of vegetables, boxes of milk, and bottles of juice to her shopping basket.

“I don’t live very nearby, but this is the nearest army-run supermarket to my house. I come here once a month and buy all the essentials. The rest I pick up from the local grocery or vegetable stores,” Amany added.

The spacious Wattaniya supermarket in Nasr City, like those in other parts of town, is crowded on Fridays and Saturdays. The focus of shoppers is on red meat and processed meat.

“The army sells good-quality meat because it comes from army-run farms so one knows for sure that it is not imported or tainted,” said Hamdi, a civil servant in his 50s while taking his place in a long queue of shoppers waiting in line.

Hamdi added that while prices were rising in other places, the army-run supermarkets were still offering reasonable prices. “It is a good service that the army is providing for the people. I think they should expand it, especially now that things are getting a lot more expensive with the dismaying management of state affairs by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he stated.

For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood is also trying to provide good value food items through a chain of supermarkets owned by its businessmen. This has not necessarily been an incentive for some shoppers, however, who say they have felt obliged to boycott the chains despite the good prices and the good selection of quality food items.

“I have to admit that I would not want anyone to see me shopping here. This is why I come at this hour of the evening when not so many people are doing their shopping,” said Samiya, a housewife in her late 50s, as she picked up a few items from the Zad supermarket in Nasr City.

Samiya said that she had been boycotting Zad for a long time. “There are other chains that are owned by Muslim Brotherhood people, but this particular chain is owned by Khairat Al-Shater [the strong man of the group], whom we blame for the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood, including those made by the president. We know that he is the one who has been running the country,” she stated.

However, Samiya has had to bow to the attractions of this supermarket as prices kept getting higher elsewhere.

“I suspect that the government is raising prices in order to force us to go to supermarkets run by the Muslim Brotherhood because we have been boycotting them. Don’t laugh! They could do it. They could do anything if they chose to,” added this head-to-toe veiled lady who chose to go to one of the Zad outlets that is far from her house in order to avoid being caught in “the supermarket of Khairat Al-Shater”.

The idea of boycotting supermarkets owned by the Muslim Brotherhood is not something that Lilian, a retired Coptic civil servant, subscribes to. “I think that this is too much. I mean, what would that achieve? It would have no effect on the political scene. They would just close their supermarkets and do something else,” she said.

Though “no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood”, Lilian said that she had been shopping with Ragab and Sons in Heliopolis for a long while. “I find most of the things I need and I find them at good prices. At the end of the day, it is an Egyptian I am buying from. A Muslim Brotherhood member is still an Egyptian that I have to live with as he has to live with me,” she said.

According to Lilian, there are “other ways of telling the Muslim Brotherhood that we are unhappy with them” that do not include “buying food at more expensive prices than they already are.”



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